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College of Education and Human Development

Elavie Ndura is Named Mason Presidential Fellow

October 15, 2015

Elavie Ndura’s deep experience with conflict propelled her into a life of education and peacemaking.

Ndura, the 2015-16 Presidential Fellow at George Mason University, lived through the 1972 genocide in her native Burundi when she was just 13.


Elavie Ndura, named George Mason University's fourth Presidential Fellow, is a professor in the College of Education and Human Development. Photo by Evan Cantwell.


Ndura is of the Hutu tribe, which in the 1960s and 1970s was the majority in Burundi, but was dominated politically by the Tutsi, a minority tribe making up less than 15 percent of the total population.

The inverse was true of the Hutu and Tutsi people in neighboring Rwanda, infamous for the 1994 genocide there.

“I think that’s why I survived. Some of the boarding schools that were run by Belgian nuns had some level of protection,” Ndura said.

More than 40 years later, some details are still difficult to speak about, Ndura said. Many Hutu people—business owners and other adults in her tribe—were killed and buried in mass graves. Several of her uncles were killed as well.

“I’d never got a chance to meet them,” she said.

As a presidential fellow, Ndura will work closely with George Mason president Ángel Cabrera to promote peace a little closer to home by engaging with students, faculty and staff to facilitate intercultural conversations.

[Ndura is the university’s fourth Presidential Fellow and the first from the College of Education and Human Development. Sarah Nutter, dean of the School of Management, was named the first Presidential Fellow in 2011 and assisted with Mason’s presidential transition, followed by public policy professor Phil Auerswald and history professor T. Mills Kelly.] 

Professor Ndura holds a basket made by Burundi women. Photo by Evan Cantwell.

Her office in the presidential suite at Mason is still bare with newness, but for one colorful and prominently placed basket.

Ndura said the basket is called “igiseke” in her native language, Kirundi.

In Burundi it’s used to give gifts, usually of locally grown farm products. The receiver returns the basket, customarily with different kinds of farm products that the giver may not have, Ndura said.

It’s a symbol of a culture of sharing and mutual sustenance, and a reminder of the Burundian and African culture of interdependence.

It also is a reminder of the 12-year-long civil war that ripped through her homeland. The fighting subsided in 2005 but left many women to fend for themselves after their husbands were killed, Ndura said. Some of them learned to make the baskets to support themselves and their families.

Whenever she travels to Burundi, Ndura buys these baskets in support of their work and livelihood.

Ndura, who works in Mason’s College of Education and Human Development, travels the world spreading the message of, and building capacity for, peace and nonviolence.

She was instrumental in bringing the Shinnyo Fellowship for Peacebuilding through Intercultural Dialogue to Mason. Each August, two Mason students begin a yearlong fellowship that provides them with a small stipend for developing their own peacemaking dispositions and skills through community service.

The intercultural discussions Ndura will facilitate as a presidential fellow will leverage Mason’s great diversity and foster inclusiveness in teaching, research and scholarship, and outreach endeavors.

And they will include “those whose trajectory didn’t evidently lead to George Mason,” Ndura said. “I came from nothing. I was born under a banana tree. I had to walk long distances carrying my belongings on my head to get an education. That’s why I attach a lot of meaning to me being here today as a presidential fellow.”


This article was written by Jamie Rogers and originally appeared on Mason News.


About CEHD

George Mason University's College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) includes two schools: the Graduate School of Education, one of the most comprehensive education schools in Virginia, and the School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism. CEHD offers a full range of courses, certificates, and degree programs on campus, online, and on site to more than 4,000 students each year. CEHD is fully accredited by NCATE, and all licensure programs are approved by the Virginia Department of Education. George Mason University, located just outside of Washington, DC, is Virginia's largest public research university.

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