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Harrop and Ruth Freeman Prize in Peace Studies

The 2023-24 Freeman Prize goes to Cornell seniors who have demonstrated a commitment to working for world peace. Patrick Mehler and Lia Sokol are this year’s winners for their achievements and continuing work in peace activities. Ainav Rabinowitz and Yingyun Aurora Zhang received honorable mentions.

Headshot of Patrick Mehler

Patrick J. Mehler is an M.S. candidate in Industrial and Labor Relations. He is Cornell’s longest-serving student mediator, having mediated over 30 cases related to student conduct through restorative justice practices since 2020. As a mediator under two different Cornell codes of conduct, he collaborated with University Trustees and Student & Campus Life staff to help facilitate more restorative practices in Cornell’s judicial system and assert Cornell as a trailblazer in utilizing restorative justice.

Patrick graduated with honors, and his thesis, Alternative Dispute Resolution to Address Campus Conflict: Lessons from Cornell University, Ohio State University, and Syracuse University, researched mediation, restorative justice, and other conflict systems at universities. He also received the David B. Lipsky Award for Conflict Resolution Impact and Excellence.

Patrick served as a teaching assistant for the course "Campus Mediation Practicum II: Advanced Issues in Restorative Justice", where he trained over 100 law, graduate, and undergraduate students to become mediators. Additionally, he worked as a research assistant at the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution for Professor Katrina Nobles, where he researched neutrals’ professional networks.

Patrick completed extensive international work related to conflict resolution, graduating as an ILR Global Scholar. He conducted research on tripartite arbitration panels with Ton Duc Thang University in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, consulted on team building and conflict resolution with the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement NGO in Karnataka, India, and trained under peacemakers and mediators in the Hopi and Navajo Nations.

Looking Ahead

Patrick will remain at Cornell for a fully funded one-year Master of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations, where he will continue working as a mediator and training as an arbitrator. Additionally, he will teach restorative practices for mediation, and infrastructure policy as an Infrastructure Policy Management and Finance Fellow.

Honorable Mentions

Headshot of Ainav Rabinowitz

Ainav Rabinowitz was a Laidlaw Scholar and the Founder of the publication Women of MENA, Cornell’s premiere gender studies publication that focused on gender and culture studies of the Middle East and North Africa Region. Throughout her time at Cornell, Ainav focused on gender equity in international and domestic politics; she conducted research in the Gender and Security Sector Lab, while also interning with Congresswoman Grace Meng, Lindsey Boylan for Congress, and nonprofits such as Women for the Win and Her Bold Move.

Ainav engaged in peace and conflict studies through her international work and research. Her Seniors Honors Thesis, titled The Hierarchy of Access: Examining Police and Community Relations in the Realm of Domestic Violence in Israel, received the Kasdan-Montessori Peace Prize for the best Honors Thesis on problems of securing peace in the world. Her thesis focused on two questions; first, why are violence and crime prevention services unequal in a multicultural, proclaimed democratic state? Second, how does an individual’s background shape their access to the state and services addressing interpersonal domestic violence (IPDV)? To complete the research, Ainav conducted over three weeks of independent fieldwork in Israel, interviewing over twenty women’s organizations and attempted to interact with police officers. She continued her research on the fight against domestic violence through her internship with the Wilson Center's Middle East Program. Aside from her research, she also interned with the Human Rights Commission of Zambia, where she assisted with investigating human rights cases in Lusaka.

Looking Ahead

Ainav is currently working with Her Bold Move, an organization that seeks to elect pro-choice women across the United States, as the Endorsement Coordinator. In the next few years, she hopes to continue her work in politics before applying to Ph.D. programs in Political Science.

Headshot of Aurora Zhang

Yingyun ‘Aurora’ Zhang is a graduating senior at Cornell University. She is a double major in Government and Information Science with a minor in Law & Society. Her academic pursuits are driven by a keen interest in the role of technology in China-US relations, the impact of China's investments in ASEAN countries (especially Myanmar and Laos), and the significance of ICT in border politics and cross-border displacements.

During the pandemic disruption in 2021, Yingyun's original research on the China-Myanmar border focused on the rights of Burmese migrant workers, profoundly shaping her commitment to peacebuilding, and deepening her understanding of cross-national exchanges in the border area. Furthermore, Yingyun honed her research skills through global experiences. She coded police violence conflict data in Myanmar at the Gender and Security Sector Lab, and analyzed news coverage about the politics of opium eradication with rubber in Laos and China at the Sustainable China Lab. Collaborations with Tsinghua University Law School & Institute for Artificial Intelligence on IPv6 cyberspace regulation and Cornell SMART program (Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Teams), a global development project in Rwanda funded by USDA-NIFA & Warren Fund, enriched her understanding of shared endeavors for a more peaceful and sustainable global order. These experiences have deepened Yingyun's global perspective, shaping her commitment to fostering peace and addressing global challenges collaboratively. As a bilingual scholar, she actively contributes to raising awareness of the Myanmar crisis through analytical articles in both Chinese and English, advocating for responsible practices among Chinese corporations in Myanmar.

Looking Ahead

Post-graduation, Yingyun will join the Tech industry, where she will refine her research and digital journalism skills. Yingyun aims to pave her way for a graduate program in peace studies and conflict reduction, driven by the goal of fostering sustained international dialogue and accountable diplomacy.

About the Freeman Prize

The Harrop and Ruth Freeman Prize in Peace Studies is awarded annually in the spring to a Cornell graduating senior. The Freemans established the prize to offer recognition and encouragement to Cornell undergraduate students actively engaged in promoting peace and to encourage continued work or education in the field of peace studies. It was established in 1984 to honor Ruth Freeman, the first woman on the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences. Ruth died in April 1988 and Harrop in October 1993. A bequest from the Freemans ensures that future Cornell students will be recognized for their achievements and continuing work in peace activities.