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Alumni Spotlight: Lindsay McClain Opiyo – Baker Scholar 2008-09

Ed. Note:  The Alumni Spotlight was created to recognize the exceptional achievements of our Baker Center student alumni as they scatter across the globe to pursue their diverse interests.

Lindsay McClain Opiyo

Perhaps no alum has traveled farther than the subject of our inaugural Alumni Spotlight, Lindsay McClain. Married and living in Gulu, Uganda, she works as both the Gender Justice Team Leader at Justice and Reconciliation Project (JRP) and as the Coordinator for the Everyday Peace Indicators (EPI) Project, which is pioneering a new methodology for measuring peace indicators that documents and surveys community perceptions of peace and safety to chart change over time.

Although Lindsay has traveled far since graduating from UT, it was not unexpected to anyone who knew her during her undergraduate career. Lindsay first traveled to East and Southern Africa the summer after her freshman year at UT with Dr. Rosalind I.J. Hackett of the UT Religious Studies Department. It was Dr. Hackett who suggested applying for the Baker Scholars program to Lindsay, and she later served as the mentor for Lindsay’s Baker Scholars and College Scholars thesis project, which focused on the arts and peacebuilding in Africa. With the support of and mentorship of the Baker Center and a variety of other programs and centers at UT, Lindsay was able to travel to Uganda four times in her undergraduate career to conduct primary research and to intern for a semester in Washington, DC at the Enough Project, an initiative that is based at the Center for American Progress and works to end crimes against humanity and genocide through US policy intervention.  Between her extensive traveling and work off-campus, Lindsay could often be found at the Baker Center, where she worked as an archivist in the Modern Political Archives.

After graduating from UT in December 2009, Lindsay relocated to Gulu, Uganda where she began working for JRP, as well as serving as the local coordinator for UT’s Gulu Study and Service Abroad Program. In 2010, she co-founded Music for Peace (MfP) with two northern Ugandan artists. MfP is a community-based organization that promotes the power of music for peace building and social change. Lindsay (kneeling in white tank top and boots) is pictured with the group. From 2012 to 2014, Lindsay attended the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and earned a Master’s degree in Peace Studies in May 2014.

This summer, Lindsay returned to Uganda to pursue her current work with JRP and EPI. Lindsay remains passionate about work that empowers conflict survivors and local communities to be their own advocates for peace, justice, and reconciliation.

Lindsay’s advice to current Baker Students:  Find mentors on campus. I met Dr. Hackett during my freshman year at UT, and Dr. Tricia Redeker Hepner shortly thereafter. Both have remained a big part of my life. Dr. Hackett even served as my witness during my wedding in Uganda in 2012 and Dr. Hepner attended. My experience at UT and my life post-graduation would not be the same without them. They have been instrumental in my professional and personal development, recommending me for employment and scholarships, guiding me as I make decisions on my career and providing a wealth of knowledge on peacebuilding in Africa.

As a second piece of advice, spend at least one semester off campus, preferably doing service learning or something to further your professional development. It is very valuable to be able to compare and contrast what you’re learning in the classroom with what you will find in the workplace later. This will also help you narrow down what you really want to do, build your network and hopefully find rewarding work after graduation.Opiyo and MfP artists after recording the music of the Payira Otole Cultural Dance Group

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