By Kristen Urban, Ph.D.

MSMU team at KROC 2017For a week in June, Drs. Elizabeth Strauss, Denise Obinna and I met with 40 colleagues from five countries at Notre Dame University’s KROC Institute of Peace, and explored a range of topics in the 2017 Summer Institute for Faculty, “Teaching Peace in the 21st Century.”

What is the KROC Institute?

The KROC Institute, operating within the Keough School of Global Affairs, joined with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) to sponsor this 9th Annual Summer Institute for Faculty, not only building on a rich catalogue of experience, but introducing participants to nearly 20 researchers and practitioners who work in vastly diverse fields.

Their work focuses on foreign policy, religion and peace, verification of treaty compliance, inner-city gangs, identity and narratives, literature and peace, inner-school violence, entrepreneurship and development, and a variety of other topics.

What was the experience like?

While goals amongst participants were varied, ranging from enhancing existing peace certificate programs to developing doctoral programs in peace and conflict studies, the Mount team was there to gain insights for developing a new undergraduate major in Conflict, Peace, & Social Justice (CPSJ).

The experience was designed to facilitate both team interaction - normally not easily accomplished on campuses during the academic year - and to enhance inter-team interactions. As the institute handbook explained, “The aim of our ‘faculty summer camp’ is not only to strengthen teams and accomplish your individual goals, but also to build the global peace studies community and get to know others in the academic world of peace studies.”

The week included lectures, panel discussions, break-out luncheon meetings with facilitators for individual team discussions about their own projects, and presentations. There were even interactive training exercises that could be applied in the classroom. During the evenings, there were also opportunities for social engagement and the exchange of ideas over some amazing dinner options.

What were the results?

The Mount team accomplished some of its goals, as well as established next steps for others. These included:

1. Developed CPSJ major
We finalized our version of the CPSJ major, and with additional resources from KROC the team will be able to view, review, and/or build from several introductory courses to peace studies. We also envision an “Intro to Peace and Justice” course.

2. Identify possible areas of engagement for practicums
The team networked with participants who can help in particular areas. Additionally, we will look to the Mount Office of Social Justice as well as the Career Center for guidance.

3. MHEC proposal for Maryland approval
Finalizing the MHEC proposal, first for faculty and then Maryland state approval is only partially completed. However, we received significant assistance in addressing several key points from other participants, and will be receiving statistical data to utilize in addressing many key questions.

4. Explore ways to generate “buy-in” with other departments
We discovered that we’re especially fortunate in several respects. First, we have a tradition of inter-disciplinary engagement – this is more rare than I realized! Second, we are currently developing several interdisciplinary majors, so we are not swimming upstream! And finally, the CPSJ major proposal grew out of the Curricular Challenge issued by our provost, with the initial stage (this workshop), funded through her budget.

5. Develop a list of career opportunities for CPSJ majors
The goal of all majors – besides the Aristotelian goal of living a rich and examined life – is of course, to help our students find engaging jobs and/or careers following their undergraduate experience at the Mount. This was addressed in two separate presentations. A key point: we must learn to use LinkedIn in an interactive way! Also, David J. Smith has just released his new book, “Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace” that highlights 86 peace jobs and many career links.

6. Seek ways to promote the major to students 
One way to promote to our students is through a dedicated webpage. The KROC Institute PR spokesperson offered many suggestions, but faced push-back from participants, who said their institutions will not allow them to do this. I don’t know how this works at the Mount. This is an institutional question that will have to be addressed on campus.

7. Develop a vision of how this major can grow 
In addition to the major, we will reformulate the minor. We can also offer certificates – especially for education (also at the master’s level), criminal justice students, business majors, and environmental studies majors. Given our location, we can also imagine special summer programs for area teachers, business managers, and/or international practitioners who need recertification courses every two or three years.