University of South Florida

Boundless Bulls

Portrait of Nazek Jawad

Nazek Jawad

Striving for restorative justice at a global level

Nazek Jawad observes the world through a wide lens. Raised in Syria and educated in Lebanon and the U.S., she has developed a keen sense of communities around her and how they have been impacted by colonialism, imperialism, war and conflict between local groups. Bearing witness to the consequences of these actions on individuals within her communities shaped her interest in restorative justice at a global level. As a professor in the Judy Genshaft Honors College and School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies, Jawad incorporates her pursuit of this work in her classes on global conflict and through her partnerships with USF World. She encourages her students to collaborate to develop conflict resolutions across the globe through online networks. 

“Students always have a fresh take on things, bringing different perspectives. My research serves as a bridge between their questions and the answers.”

What first made you passionate about your field? 

It all stemmed from my personal experiences growing up in the Middle East with many different conflicts around us. My interest in international relations has always been from a normative point of view, asking what should be done to realize a more just and free international community? 

My research is about how to utilize restorative justice within international communities. There are many countries that have been subjected to European colonialism and American imperialism, and when that ends, those communities are left to pick up the pieces with no closure. I look at tools of restorative justice and see how they can be utilized at an international level to achieve closure between countries that have experienced war and violence.

How did your work lead you to USF?

My partner at the time had previously lived in Tampa, so when we fled Syria in 2013, we decided to come here since it was a familiar area. USF was the right fit to pursue my education because it’s very diverse, which was very comforting. I have always felt safe here. 

How have you contributed to your field of study?

I’m arguing for something that doesn’t exist, which is not easy because it’s not conventional to discuss restorative justice. The contribution is to understand the impact that it could have within international systems given that we know about the impact at the individual level. 

There is a dialogue that needs to happen at an international level. We need to talk about these histories for people to move on because there is always a power imbalance that is felt because of the conflicts. My goal is to find spaces for people to have dialogue to bridge that gap. 

What projects are you facilitating?

I teach courses in the Judy Genshaft Honors College that are focused on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the U.S. invasion of Iraq and European colonialism. We discuss tools of restorative justice, such as the importance of personal narrative in international relations. We also cover communities that have successfully had those discussions, such as the Germans and the French in the post-World War II era deciding how the two countries would view each other moving forward. 

While teaching at the Honors College, I learned about a training program that USF World was offering called Collaborative Online International Learning. The program is about finding an international faculty partner at another university and having both sets of students work together on a project. I reached out to a colleague of mine in Colombia, and we had our students work on a project that addressed issues in the Middle East. Our students were excited to have this international exposure while working at home. I ended up incorporating this project in my classes every semester, which has been academically and professionally rewarding without the cost of travel. 

How does your engagement with students benefit your research?

Students always have a fresh take on things, bringing different perspectives. My research serves as a bridge between their questions and the answers. One facet of each class is the significance of considering other perspectives, which is the core of global learning. They see the commonality of the human experience in cultures that are considered ‘other’, which is important in resolving conflict on a global scale. 

What do you find most satisfying in your role at USF?

I’m working on something that I’m passionate about. I’m a firm believer in global education because it helps students to be inclusive and successful in a multicultural environment. I love working with faculty to enhance courses and expose students to knowledge of global competencies. 

What notable interactions have you had with students?

I had a student who took my class because she wanted to learn more about women in the Middle East and explore the discrepancy between the portrayal of the Middle East and the reality. She took Arabic language classes here and got a scholarship to go abroad to Morocco to live with a Moroccan family to practice her Arabic. She took the initiative to have a first-hand experience of the culture she learned about in the classroom, which was very impressive.

I’ve had Palestinian and Israeli students taking my class at the same time. Getting to watch their interaction as they learned and discussed in an academic space with dialogue over two weeks was very poignant. These are moments where I really see the value of having this class. 

What changes do you anticipate in your field of study?

What’s beautiful about this discipline is that it continuously evolves in connection with other fields of study. Restorative Justice originated in the discipline of criminology, but now the field of international relations is considering it in an interdisciplinary way. There’s so much room for growth when you see it in connection with other disciplines.

What would you like the next generation of researchers to focus on?

Narratives are a great place to relate to the ‘other’. The human experience is the entry point to relate to anyone. In academia we often theorize things, which takes away from the value of the human story by making ideas too abstract. My hope is that one day it will be normalized to include human stories in research in the field of international relations.

Boundless Bulls is a collection of stories about what truly makes USF great – the people. It is a focus on our community footprint, our impact and the trajectory of where we can go together.  To nominate a member of the USF community for Boundless Bulls, please fill out this submission form. 

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