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Study Review: MA Gender and Peacebuilding at UPEACE University (United Nations)

About the University

The United Nations mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica was established in December 1980 as a Treaty Organization by the United Nations General Assembly. The mission of the university is “to provide humanity with an international institution of higher education for peace with the aim of promoting among all human beings the spirit of understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, to stimulate cooperation among people and to help lessen obstacles and threats to world peace in keeping with the noble aspirations proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations.”

“The wider mission of the University should be seen in the context of the worldwide peace and security objectives of the United Nations. The central importance of education, training and research in all their aspects are to build the foundations of peace and progress and to reduce the prejudice and hatred in which violence, conflict and terrorism are based. The Charter of the University calls for UPEACE ‘to contribute to the greater universal task of educating for peace by engaging in teaching, research, post-graduate training and dissemination of knowledge fundamental to the full development of the human person and societies through the interdisciplinary study of all matters related to peace’.” (UPEACE, 2016)

UPEACE Programs

Master’s programs:

  • Department of Environmental Development
    • Environment Development and Peace
    • Responsible Management and Sustainable Economic Development
  • Department of Peace and Conflict Studies
    • Gender and Peacebuilding
    • International Peace Studies
    • Media
    • Peace Education
  • Department of International Law
    • International Law and Human Rights
    • International Law and the Settlement of Disputes

Other Programs:

  • Spanish-language M.A. in Conflict Resolution, Peace and Conflict
  • Distance Education (MA)
  • Doctoral in Peace and Conflict Studies
  • Study Abroad
  • Undergraduate Credit-building program
  • Partnership Programs with American University (U.S.A), Innsbruck University (Austria), Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines) and more.


The University for Peace (UPEACE) is a unique university. The resolution that created UPEACE was not voted on at the Assembly, it was accepted by consensus and there were no votes against the proposal. As a result, no country in the world is able to legally reject the legal authorization of UPEACE degrees. Since 2008, UPEACE has also been a full member of the National Higher Education Accreditation System of Costa Rica (SINAES). Under this accreditation the Department of Environment and Development and the Department of International law are accredited. The Department of Peace and Conflict studies accreditation are in progress and the decision for these programs will be made in 2017.

More information

 MA Gender and Peacebuilding at UPEACE

  • Gender Theories and Practices
  • Gender in Peacebuilding and Human Security
  • Gender Mainstreaming and Peacekeeping Operations and Humanitarian Assistance
  • Gender, Environment and Sustainable Development
  • Gender-Based Violence*
  • Gender and Human Trafficking*
  • Religion, Gender and Peace*

Personal Review

“I came across UPEACE while searching for gender and peace related programs outside of the United States. I had just completed two years abroad as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer living in Central Asia and wanted to continue living abroad. I found that UPEACE had a greater level of student and cultural diversity with a small class size that would enrich my learning experience. Each course had either a visiting professor or a UPEACE professor that brought a rich variety of education to the course structure, grading, and assignments. Many students would say this made courses inconsistent and unstructured, however, I valued the flow and flexibility of the learning styles. Student discussion and involvement was absolutely necessary to make learning challenging and engaging. Personally, I valued learning from my classmates, especially on topics that needed a creative outlook such as solutions to human trafficking and gender-based violence. Students with a background in Women’s or Men’s Studies looking for a career with the United Nations would benefit from this master’s program by gaining knowledge of rigorous U.N. frameworks and the development of creative solutions to U.N. subject matters. It is essential [for this Master program] that students are driven, self-starters and in control of their own learning ability.

The Gender and Peacebuilding program requires a substantial amount of reading assignments from articles, research, U.N. papers, and textbook excerpts paired with writing assignments (~3,000 words) and in-class presentations. There was an incredible amount of support from my classmates, particularly with assignments; we developed a system of distributing readings and note taking between the 11 of us. The Gender and Peacebuilding (GPB) students were known for their collaboration, intimate, and non-competitive spirit in and out of the classroom. Graduate requirements of the GPB program included students to choose either a thesis project, and internship or a capstone project. I chose to complete a gender related internship back in the United States, which required 3 full analysis papers totaling 13,000 words. I found the GPB program invaluable to my development as a gender expert and peace builder. Networking with students and staff from all around the world will carry and support me in my career. Besides the courses and class assignments, another rare quality to UPEACE is its location in a nature reserve and the opportunity to live in the local community.

Students can choose to live with a Costa Rican host family, shop at the local markets and learn Spanish. Every weekday the university bus picks students up from the small town to drive them up a mountain through coffee farms to the campus that overlooks the entire San Jose valley. The campus is scattered with hammocks and study spots, including a library, air-conditioned study room, on-site cafeteria and recreation building. Just above the campus students can walk through the Peace Park and visit the seasonal park restaurant. This tranquil environment nurtures one’s learning experience and mindset to create change in the world.” (De Anna Le Pree)


  • Beautiful tranquil campus
  • Extreme student diversity
  • Small class size
  • 11 month programs
  • Opportunity for cultural exchange with host family
  • Cultural diversity in extracurricular activities
    • Vagina Monologues
    • Cultural Days (Latin Night, Asian Night etc.)
    • Student created and facilitated “Brown Bags” for all students (Image 3)
    • International Days (AIDS Awareness, 16-days of Activism)
    • Football, surfing, table tennis
    • Trips to Nicaragua or Panama
    • Spanish Classes
  • Career Development Center
  • On Campus Medical Clinic
  • On Campus Copy Center
  • On site with The Earth Charter: http://earthcharter.org/


  • Some students say classes aren’t challenging enough
  • (I say) classes are as challenging as you make them
  • Teaching style and grading can vary each course
  • Student visas to Costa Rica can be a challenging process

Useful Websites

About the author

De Anna Le Pree

De Anna Le Pree, M.A. in Gender and Peacebuilding from the U.N. mandated University For Peace, Costa Rica.
Email: lepreed@gmail.com