Past Students

Rezarta Bilali

Rezarta holds a Master's degree in Conflict Resolution from Sabanci University in Turkey.  Rezarta is conducting research in Rwanda and Burundi assessing Tutsis' and Hutus' attitudes toward each other, willingness to interact, and their knowledge on origins of mass violence as an academic consultant to the La Benevolencija Rwanda reconciliation radio project.  She has conducted research on youth conflict resolution programs for Greek and Turkish Cypriots, as well as our attitudes about, and the relationships between, different types of trust in Albanian and U.S. student populations.

Rezarta’s research focuses on the relationship between collective memories and construction of social identities, and received a Harry Frank Guggenheim Dissertation Award Award to support her while conducting this research. Rezarta completed her Ph.D. in Spring 2009 and took a position in Fall 2009 at University of Massachusetts Boston, as Assistant Professor, Dispute Resolution Programs, McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies. As of Fall 2013, she became an Assistant Professor in the Doctoral Program in Psychology & Social Interventions of  the Department of Applied Psychology, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University.

Manisha Gupta

Manisha obtained a B.S. in Business Administration, and a B.A. in Social Welfare, from the University of California at Berkeley before joining the program at UMass. During graduate school, the majority of her research focused on investigating antecedents and consequences of prejudice between ethnic minority groups, and methods of improving cross-ethnic coalition building, for which she was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Manisha will begin The Jacquelin Goldman Congressional Fellowship from the American Psychological Association starting in September, 2015. This provides psychologists with an interest in policies that affect the psychological development of children with an invaluable public policy learning experience; to contribute to the more effective use of psychological knowledge in government; and to broaden awareness about the value of psychology-government interaction among psychologists and within the federal government.


Diala Hawi

Diala holds a Master's in clinical psychology from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, where she also taught, practiced clinical work, and worked with communities that have struggled through political conflict. She has worked as a volunteer relief provider and a psychosocial coordinator, organizing workshops on postwar trauma, conflict resolution, dialogue, and group mediation.

Her doctoral training has been in applied research within social, political, and clinical psychology, where she focuses on research that stems from intergroup conflict and group dynamics, with an emphasis on minority status groups and alliance-building between groups. Diala’s research has covered various regions including the U.S., Northern Ireland, South Africa, and the Middle East. Her work takes a cultural approach and integrates multiple methodologies and disciplines, focusing on a host of social categories, including national, ethnic, religious, and racial groups, while situating them in their unique cultural and historical contexts.

Nick Joyce

Nick received his B.A. in Psychology from Lewis and Clark College. He became interested in the psychology of peace while living in East Africa and conducting interviews with Rwandan refugees and other displaced peoples.

Nick's interests concern conflict mediation processes and psychological processes surrounding group leadership and conducted research on informational biases in inter-group attitude formation. In 2014 Nick furthered his studies at the University of Arizona, Communications Department where he received his Phd. He is now as Assistant Professor in the Department of Communications, University of Maryland College Park..

Jaeshin Kim

Jaeshin received a Master's degree in Cultural Psychology from Korea University in South Korea. His research interests concern the roles that threat and fear play in promoting aggressive conflict. He was an intern and a consultant at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), South Korea from 2008 to 2009, and worked as a research associate in Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, USA from 2009 to 2010.

Jaeshin completed his Ph.D. in 2010 and is a research professor at the Center for Dispute Resolution at Dankook University, South Korea where he investigates conflict and dispute issues in Korean society. Particularly, he is committed to developing theory and practice in order to build a culture of peaceful resolution of conflict and dispute.

Katya Migacheva

Katya studied foreign languages and cultures at Samara State Pedagogic University (Russia) and studied psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University (USA).  Katya has worked extensively with organizations promoting democratic values education in post-Soviet Russia and was one of the creators of educational programs on cultural tolerance for Jewish teenagers in Samara.  She has a keen interest in cross-cultural communication, humanistic pedagogy, democratic values, Arab-Israeli conflict, and the lessons of Holocaust. 

 Katya's current research concerns the facilitation of intergroup contact, trust, and tolerance in post-conflict societies.  She was also a part of a quantitative evaluation team for the Training Active Bystanders program, implemented by the Quabbin Mediation Center, which focuses on promoting social competence and active bystandership among secondary schools in Western Massachusetts.

She was selected as the 2012 James Marshall Public Policy Fellow from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. This fellowship allows her to conduct postdoctoral work in Washington DC for two years, in order to "contribute to the effective use of scientific knowledge about social issues in the formation of public policy."

Katya was placed working with representatives in Congress on the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, whose mission is "to promote, defend and advocate internationally recognized human rights norms in a nonpartisan manner, both within and outside of Congress, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments." She was working closely with Jim McGovern (D-MA), our congressional representative in western Mass and co-Chair of the Commission.

Katya recently accepted a position with the RAND Corporation (, where she now serves as an Associate Behavioral and Social Scientist. At RAND, Katya hopes to combine her expertise in both science and policy and to continue and expand her work on societies in transition and relations between racial, ethnic, and national groups.

Helen O'Hara

Helen received her Masters in Violence, Terrorism and Security from Queen’s University, Belfast. Her thesis utilized a meta-analysis of approaches to analysing terrorist psychology in order to understand the cognitive evolution of an extremist—from initial experiences of political grievances to committing a violent act. During this time she conducted field research into insurgent tactics in Northern Ireland as part of a partnership with the University of California Institute of Global Conflict and Cooperation. She has also worked at the UK’s leading children’s charity, Barnardo’s, policy and research department investigating child exploitation.

Helen’s current interests focus on the nature of morality and political violence, in particular the social and psychological factors which influence engagement with, and justification of, terrorism or alternative nonviolent social change. She is hoping that this research will lead to practical applications for peacebuilding and conflict transformation. She received her Masters from our program in 2015.

Rachel Steele

Rachel received her Ph.D. in 2016. She also holds a Master’s in Peace and Justice Studies from the University of San Diego. Prior to joining the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program at UMass she worked at the United States Institute of Peace for three years addressing governance and legal issues in Iraq and post-conflict justice and reconciliation in a variety of settings. She had also worked as a peace activist in Seattle and in the Philippines (with the Mennonite Central Committee) working alongside local peace-builders.

Currently, Rachel is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology at Hampshire College (2016-2017) teaching social psychology courses. Rachel has conducted two integrated lines of research on emotional and cognitive responses to intergroup provocations and to attempts at intergroup reconciliation. For example, her research has examined responses to terrorism and to undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Her dissertation research focused on beliefs of victim group members and perpetrator group members about reconciliation efforts made by the government (in Chile for political and racial violence and in the U.S. for a racial injustice). 

Ramila Usoof-Thowfeek

Ramila received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Psychology. Currently, she is  faculty member in the Department of Philosophy & Psychology at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. She was a research scholar at the Solomon Asch Center for the study of Ethnopolitical conflict at the University of Pennsylvania in 2004-2005 and is also a trained mediator. Her research focuses on how individuals are able to maintain the perception that they are moral, despite having committed moral transgressions.

She also studies how different mechanisms are used in moral judgments depending on whether the transgression is interpersonal in nature or takes place on behalf of a group in an intergroup context. In addition, Ramila was interested in creating psychosocial intervention programs, which are culturally specific, for those affected by intergroup violence. Along this line, she conducted research in Sri Lanka looking at the influence of religious beliefs and practice on psychological resilience.

Johanna Ray Vollhardt

Johanna Ray holds a Diplom (equivalent to a Master’s) in Psychology from the University of Cologne, Germany. Her research has focused on attributions in intergroup contexts, and prosocial behavior toward outgroup members among victims of interpersonal and intergroup violence (“altruism born of suffering”).

Johanna was an intern with La Benevolencija's Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo reconciliation radio programs in 2005-2006. She is one of the academic consultants to the team implementing this project and is working primarily on programs in the DR Congo. In her current work Johanna focuses on victim consciousness, prosocial behavior, and social activism among members of previously victimized groups.

In June 2009, Johanna Vollhardt was awarded the Gert Sommer Award for Peace Psychology in Bremen, Germany. Johanna received a Ph.D. in Spring 2009 through our program. She took a position as an Assistant Professor of (Social) Psychology at Clark University in the Fall 2009 and as an affiliated faculty member of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark.

Amelie Werther

Amelie has a Master's degree in Psychology from the Universität Trier, Germany.  Her research aims to understand and assess elements of respect related to group conflicts.  She also researched the attributional components with which we form evaluative judgments of other people.

Amelie worked in Dr. Ilana Shapiro's research group on Comparing Conflict Interventions and in 2006 she was an intern at a non-governmental organization in Buenos Aires, Argentina: Fundacion Cambio Democratico.  This organization belongs to the network of Partners for Democratic Change and works to further democratization and participative conflict resolution (such as mediation) in Latin America.