A pledge to peace

 Sarah Kelsey


Kennesaw State senior earns prestigious internship at The Carter Center

KENNESAW, Ga. (Sep 26, 2016) — When Kennesaw State University student Sarah Kelsey was a freshman, she toured The Carter Center in Atlanta and saw up close the center’s many human-rights and peacekeeping initiatives. From that moment, she knew she wanted to intern there.

Now a senior, Kelsey has accomplished that goal. She earned a highly competitive internship and is spending this semester in a research and support role in The Carter Center’s efforts to help resolve the ongoing civil war in Syria.

“It’s a good challenge, and that’s what an internship should be,” said Kelsey, an international affairs major from Marietta. “I’m loving it.”

Once Kelsey set her sights on an internship at The Carter Center, she did everything she could to boost her credentials to earn it. Already a student in the select President's Emerging Global Scholars (PEGS) cohort in KSU’s Division of Global Affairs, Kelsey became actively involved in the Model United Nations program and participated in local and international competitions.

She traveled with PEGS to Brazil, Ireland and the United Kingdom, and she performed volunteer work while studying the government structures of the three countries. For three years, Kelsey worked part-time during semesters and full-time during summers in order to earn the money to spend six weeks in Jordan, where she studied American foreign policy in the Middle East and the history of the Arab world while practicing speaking Arabic.

“So everything I did really was keeping an eye on this internship and then also what I hope to do in the future, which hopefully will be a career in conflict management,” Kelsey said. “I’ve been lucky because I knew in my freshman year of college exactly what I wanted the goal to be, so I knew what to work toward and how to build my resume and make sure I was getting the experience that I wanted to get.”

Along with interning three days a week at The Carter Center, Kelsey is carrying a 12-hour class load and remaining active in Model U.N. This year, Kelsey is the Secretary General of Kennesaw State’s annual High School Model U.N. conference. She is hard at work planning the March 2017 conference so as to make an impactful experience for participating high school students.

Kelsey looks forward to graduating from Kennesaw State in May and then devoting her career to conflict resolution in the Middle East, whether that means having a position with the U.S. Department of State or working for a nongovernmental organization (NGO) such as The Carter Center.

“My dream is to work in some capacity toward a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” she said. “I don’t mind if I’m doing it as a grassroots NGO worker who’s getting regular, average citizens talking to each other, or if I’m able to do that at a higher level such as secretary of state.”

Chris Young, who wrote one of Kelsey’s recommendations for the internship, is confident that she will accomplish whatever she sets out to do. Young, executive director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research at Kennesaw State, led the PEGS study abroad trips to the U.K. and Ireland. He described Kelsey’s internship as “a coup,” since she was vying against students from all over the globe and from some of the most elite academic institutions in the U.S.

“Out of that fierce competition, Sarah emerged with a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Young said. “Sarah is a prime example of just how special students in PEGS are. She combines intellectual curiosity and a desire to serve others with the ability to communicate, all of which will serve her well at The Carter Center and beyond.”

A highlight of the internship will be meeting The Carter Center’s namesake, former President Jimmy Carter. Kelsey and her fellow interns will meet President Carter on a visit to his hometown of Plains, Ga., and then later in the semester will have an interns-only question-and-answer session with him.

Kelsey actually wrote a letter to President Carter during her sophomore year of college, explaining what she hopes to accomplish in her life and why she feels called to do it. He responded by sending her a personalized copy of his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

“He signed it with, ‘Best wishes to Sarah Kelsey,’ and wrote to me, ‘This is a fine ambition. My advice is to learn everything possible about the Palestinians … and let others know what you learn,’” she said. “It was validating to have his support since he has been involved in the peace process from the beginning. I didn’t think he’d reply – I just wanted to write the letter – so it was very exciting when he did.”

— Paul Floeckher

Photos by David Caselli


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu