In 2007, a diverse group of students, with the support of faculty and community members at the University of California at Irvine (UCI), established the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) in response to tensions on campus surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a desire to address them in a constructive and innovative way. Students from a variety of backgrounds and affiliations created a campus forum to discuss different perspectives. They then organized and raised funds for a trip to the Middle East to learn about the conflict from those who live in its daily reality.
During the trip, students met with speakers from a wide range of perspectives. Students were able to gain greater insight about their own narratives and the narratives of others from traveling to the region. Upon return, students participated in speaking engagements and organized programming to share their experiences with the on and off-campus communities.
Since that original two-week trip in 2008, OTI has grown tremendously in academic scope, impact, and number of students involved. OTI can now be found on university campuses throughout California and continues to expand domestically and internationally by incorporating academic programs in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. The program now includes pre-and post-trip coursework, as well as mentorship and leadership development. All trip participants become part of the OTI Alumni Network.
In 2012, OTI expanded its scope and developed a South Caucasus branch. Using OTI's holistic Experiential Education model, students study borders, social, and political relations between Turkey, Armenia and Georgia.
Today, OTI continues to provide student leaders with the innovative education and skills needed to resolve complex global issues.