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experienced here an intensity of discussion beyond anything I have
known since, in 60 years of public life of public life."
- John Kenneth Galbraith
Profile: Shahla Magzhi
Magzhi is a Ph.D. student in jurisprudence and social policy
at Boalt Hall.
Magzhi, a graduate student in jurisprudence and social policy, was
born and raised in a San Francisco family that held five generations
in one house. Her father is from Iran and her mother is of German
was delighted to discover the International House when she was exploring
Berkeley as a graduate school option. "I just walked in and
I looked at the mission statement. I read that part of the mission
was 'to foster intercultural respect and understanding,' and also
'to stimulate diversity of thought among residents.' I thought that
set of values was a very positive foundation, something I felt very
at peace with."
to her family's existence is the Baha'i faith, a monotheistic religion
which originated in Persia in the 19th century. Its fundamental
belief is that humanity is one single race, and that the day has
come for unification in a global society.
Her spiritual tradition also helped inspire her career interest
in international environmental law and dispute resolution. "I'm
fascinated by how people pursue justice in various forms, how justice
and harmony can work together in development, and how both justice
and harmony can be achieved without sacrificing the other."
part of this pursuit, she spent more than two years in China, studying
Chinese forms of conflict resolution. "In China, the word for
mediation means 'to readjust to bring to a solution.' When I spoke
with fifty neighborhood mediators, they described their goal as
being to help the disputants readjust divided relationships and
also use the legal system when necessary. At the same time, they
expressed openness to seeking new approaches of resolution to address
also worked in a very different culture, in Peru, on a project that
sought to resolve differences over natural resource issues. "The
consultative approach was interesting especially because it aimed
at helping women become more proactive in community resource decisions.
Once the women contributed their perspectives, the orientation of
the discussion shifted, and the group reached its goals much faster.
They've found this to be true in Africa, as well."
at the I-House, Shahla continues to participate in the language
tables, programs, and the daily life of her floor. Last semester
her floor's residents held several meetings to share poetry, art,
and writings on whatever themes moved them, from justice to family
issues. They also created an informal space for women graduate students
to discuss the challenges of transitioning back to academia.
Shahla, International House also represents a return to the cooperative
ideals of her youth. "When I was growing up in San Francisco,
it became so natural to plan projects with a diverse community,
I never questioned it. When I left, I realized, wow, that's not
something that just naturally emerges. There has to be an intent
to work towards it."
think any time people come together with a goal of promoting unity
among diverse cultures, it's one of the most healthy environments
to be in. It challenges each person to break out of the individualistic
spheres of life and see we're really living in a very integrative
world, and we have the opportunity to learn from each other."
plans to complete her Ph.D. in 2007 and hopes to work for a public
interest development organization and to teach in a university.