UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus William McInerney was awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. The scholarship, established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, offers full support for graduate study at the University of Cambridge in England.
After two years in NC State’s civil engineering program, McInerney realized his passions lay elsewhere.
“I transferred to UNC as an incoming junior, and at that moment, I had the opportunity to think critically about what major I wanted,” McInerney said. “I had decided to transfer to UNC because I wanted to do more work that was related to what I thought I could be personally more impactful with, what I was more passionate about." Those were issues related to trying to address violence in all forms, in geopolitical level down to an interpersonal level.
At UNC, McInerney said he was drawn to the Peace, War and Defense major because it provided him with a broad view of understanding violence and peace and because it would create in an academic environment with multiple perspectives, backgrounds and beliefs.
After finishing college at UNC, McInerney strayed slightly from the peace, war and defense approach and leaned more into education.
“When I graduated from UNC, I helped found a local non-profit that was based in the Triangle but worked across North Carolina, called Sacrificial Poet,” McInerney said. “We use spoken word and hip-hop arts education to help youth in our communities empower themselves, help them use their voice to try to take control of their lives to excel in school and also to be productive and peaceful members in their communities. That was a kind of fusion between arts and peace education."
At first, McInerney was skeptical of his talents and capabilities, doubting that this fusion was even a possibility.
“I worried that they were separate passions and that I would have to find a way to juggle them, but the more that I did the poetry work, the more that I realized that poetry education and art education was a powerful opportunity for peace education,” he said.
On top of that, he was also covering issues of violence as a freelancer for WUNC. Combining what he learned from all these experiences, McInerney moved on to his next endeavor.
“The more work that I was doing in schools, teaching this fusion of peace and arts education, the more work I was doing covering issues of violence as a journalist, the more I saw really emergent trends, which was the fact that the vast majority of violence was committed by men, by people who look like me in a lot of ways,” McInerney said.
With this in mind, McInerney returned to UNC as an employee and helped start the UNC Men’s Project, a men’s violence prevention program for undergraduate and graduate students. For his work on this program, he was awarded the Rotary Peace Fellowship to study conflict resolution at the University of Bradford in England.
At Cambridge, his research will aim to improve men’s violence prevention by exploring the potential fusion of arts education into men’s violence prevention education programs.
“Ultimately, it’s not good enough to have good intent,” McInerney said. “The question isn't ‘What is your intent?’, the question is ‘What is your impact?’, and I think that's where there is a lot of room for growth in the field. I think one of the ways we can make men’s violence prevention education more impactful, to hold men more accountable, is to infuse these creative and critical teaching strategies into it.”
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