Peter James Kiernan, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and current GS student, has been selected as one of 12 members of the 2018 Class of George J. Mitchell Scholars. He will complete one year of fully-funded postgraduate study in conflict resolution and reconciliation at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
“Peter embodies the tenets of the program, which are academic excellence and a commitment to leadership and community and public service. He was a natural choice for us,” Carolina Chavez, Director of the Mitchell Scholarship Program, said.
The selection process for the Program, which honors former U.S. Senator George Mitchell’s “pivotal contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process,” is highly competitive—less than four percent of applicants were chosen for this year’s cohort. Kiernan credits the Columbia Office of Global Programs and the Fellowships Office at the School of General Studies (GS) for their guidance in crafting his candidacy, and once he was selected as a finalist, in setting up mock interviews to prepare him for an in-person interview in Washington, D.C.
“Peter is a remarkable student in so many ways. He’s been deeply involved in questions of war and peace, both academically and in his career as a U.S. Marine, so it’s a very fitting program for him. Our office and the GS administration were happy to support him throughout the application process,” Scott Carpenter, Associate Dean of Global Education and Fellowships for the Columbia Office of Global Programs, said.
Kiernan’s decision to study conflict resolution was indeed informed by the six years he spent serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, and he sees the Program as providing an alternate perspective that will complement his military experience abroad.
“I spent several years in Afghanistan, but despite interacting with locals every day, I was never fully immersed in the culture. As a member of the U.S. military, you are sheltered, in a sense. As a student, I will have the chance to deeply engage with a culture that is foreign and distinct from the United States,” Kiernan said.
Kiernan joined the U.S. Marine Corps shortly after high school, and became the youngest U.S. Marine to serve in the Special Operations Command in Afghanistan. He went on to enroll at GS, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science. In 2015, he founded the Ivy League Veterans Council, a not-for-profit whose core mission is to increase student-veteran representation within the Ivy League. He remains committed to service, and upon completion of his studies at Trinity, plans to continue his public service in New York State.
The Columbia University School of General Studies (GS) is the premier liberal arts college in the United States for nontraditional undergraduate students seeking a rigorous, traditional, Ivy League education, including those who have served in the U.S. and foreign militaries. Currently, more than 400 veterans are enrolled. GS students take the same courses, study with the same faculty, and earn the same degree as all other undergraduates at Columbia University.