Shayne Bell - Featured VAN Member

Shayne Bell - Blessed Is the Peacemaker

Peacemakers come in many forms, but most share a common calling to help diverse peoples come together and share their lives and spaces in harmony. That calling led Shayne Bell (VU ’03) from hometown Wauconda, Illinois to Orizari, Macedonia, and Brattleboro, Vermont and six months ago took her to Washington, D.C.

A Music Education major, Shayne fondly recalls spending “hours and hours in the VUCA lobby with other arts majors and friends, talking about classes and life.”

Shayne BellMusical experiences, of course, figure prominently among her Valpo memories. Shayne relished the hours spent on a tour bus with fellow band members as they played venues around the Midwest during the annual Spring Break Chamber Concert Band Tour. Any opportunity to play in the Chapel was “always an incredible experience,” but to her, the most amazing of all was playing in VU’s holiday concert at Chicago’s Symphony Hall.

On the surface then Shayne’s current position as Associate in the Europe/Eurasia Division of Chemonics International, an international development consulting firm, seems unrelated to her preparation to teach music. However, she finds working with youth is still a large part of her life and that “was definitely encouraged during coursework in Music Education.” Furthermore, Valpo professors and staff inspired her to pursue a life of helping others, which she most certainly does as manager of a governance accountability project in Bosnia and a judicial education project in Kazakhstan.

The professor who was most influential in Shayne’s life was Dr. Jeff Doebler, her advisor.

“He was always so kind and positive and supportive for anything I wanted, to do,” recalls Shayne, “even if it veered from my actual degree. He had a passion for education and music education, and that passion really inspired me to pursue my own passions.”

She began to pursue her own passion at a Valpo career fair, where she met with a Peace Corps recruiter and determined to volunteer, combining the understanding of the world her liberal arts studies had provided and a calling to help others. Assigned to northeastern Macedonia, Shayne taught English and especially enjoyed her summer work at multi-ethnic girls’ leadership camps. These were designed to lessen ethnic tensions between Macedonians and Albanians by allowing the girls to get to know and understand each other. Her FOCUS Orientation Assistant experience proved particularly beneficial there, where she witnessed the creation of strong bonds between girls.

This peacemaker worked for some non-profits in Chicago following her Peace Corps stint, then headed off to the School for International Training in Vermont and earned a Masters in Conflict Transformation with a focus on youth programs.

Chemonics International largely does contract work for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Shayne traveled back to Macedonia for Chemonics in April to research new projects and will spend most of August working in Kazakhstan. Her Bosnia project works “with individual municipalities to help identify ways in which they can improve their citizens’ services and transparency, usually through surveying the citizens or holding town hall meetings.” The project further works with the main Bosnian governments to improve federal laws which affect the municipalities.

In Kazakhstan, Shayne supports field staff that helps to train and educate judges and lawyers regarding commercial law. She reports that as much peer training is given as possible. This involves training individual judges to provide trainings to their colleagues and others in their communities.

Obviously, Valpo taught Shayne to make beautiful music in more than one way. She continues to hit the high notes, working toward a crescendo of peace and harmony in any effort she pursues.