‘Peace Studies’ advances in California

Peace Studies is listed with mainstream disciplines such as biology, math and anthropology by California community colleges, writes David J. Smith, author of Peacebuilding in Community Colleges: A Teaching ResourceSan Diego City College, the first California community college to offer an Associate Degree in Peace Studies, led the campaign.

Peace Studies students take courses in conflict resolution, environmental sustainability, justice and ethics. San Diego students in the program plan to pursue careers in international law, human rights advocacy, violence prevention and humanitarian aid.

Learning to listen with compassion

Sarah Zale combined “compassionate listening” with participatory theater to teach English 101 at Portland Community College in Oregon, building on the college’s program on “Theater of the Oppressed.”

Now she’s added social science, community service, multiculturalism and global awareness to create the Listening Tree Project at Shoreline Community College near Seattle.

In November, the Listening Tree Club staged a five-minute skit on “the prejudices and power differentials” experienced by Asian and international students of color.  Then the audience replaced the characters and tried to resolve the conflicts.

This quarter, Zale is co-teaching an interdisciplinary course with drama instructor Deb Jacoby called “Leading the Way: Social Justice Through Activism and Compassion.”

Next year, the Listening Tree will be a sequence of three classes that satisfy humanities or social sciences requirements and lead to a  Leadership Trainer Certificate.“More and more, employers are looking for something that says ‘Yes, I have these skills, I can be a leader in community building and conflict resolution and demonstrate active listening to multicultural perspectives’.”

College teaches conflict resolution

When fights broke out between girls at a Maryland alternative school, Howard Community College‘s conflict resolution counselors mediated the dispute and trained school staff in mediation techniques,  reports the Baltimore Sun. The fighting stopped at Homewood Center and suspensions, behavior referrals and unexcused absences went down.

The Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center has been dealing with conflict in the Howard community for the past 22 years, including boundary disputes between neighbors, anger-management issues of college athletes and disagreements among teacher groups.

The mediation center also is working with high schools to improve detention programs.

HCC took over the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center in 2001, 11 years after it began as a grassroots organization. Students can earn an associate degree in conflict resolution and transfer to Salisbury University, which also has a Center for Conflict Resolution. The center also employs 150 non-student volunteers, who take at least 40 hours of mediation training at the college.

. . . the center uses methods derived from the Bethlehem, Pa.-based International Institute for Restorative Practices, which encourages authority figures — teachers, supervisors and law enforcement — to involve their communities in creating solutions to problems rather than resorting to punitive measures.

“Restorative work is about if an incident has happened, it’s helping people, especially juveniles, to recognize that the harm they caused has an effect on people,” said (director Kathryn) Rockefeller.

When Homewood Center students felt the peace was threatened, they told the assistant principal they needed to “circle up again,” said Principal Tina Maddox. “That was a sign that … it was producing problem-solving skills, conflict resolution that our students had not normally experienced.”

‘Peace studies’ expand at community colleges

Conflict resolution and “peace studies” programs are expanding at community colleges.  Cuyahoga Community College will host a Conference on Conflict Resolution Education (CRE) in Cleveland March 14 to 19. The last two days will be devoted to developing community college programs.

Twenty-one community colleges offer peace and conflict initiatives with another 10 in development, according to David Smith, educational outreach manager at the U.S. Institute of Peace. While some programs offer no credit, others offer a certificate or associate degree.

For example, Cuyahoga awards a Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies certificate, Delta College (Michigan) offers a certificate of achievement or AA in Global Peace Studies, Greenfield Community College (Massachusetts) an AA in liberal arts with a Peace, Justice and Environmental Studies focus, San Diego City College a certificate or AA in Peace Studies and Howard Community College (Maryland) an AA in Conflict Resolution.

Peace & Justice Studies at Bluegrass and Community and Technical College includes courses in history, humanities, art, political science, philosophy, anthropology, communications, and geography leading to an associate of arts degree, reports Kentucky Living. The coordinator manages Peace Meal Gardens, community garden.

What does a student do with a peace studies credential? Advocates say employers value workers who can work collaboratively and deal with conflicts. It strikes me as a useful addition to job skills, not a substitute.

Somalia PM taught community college

Somalia’s new prime minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, taught leadership skills and conflict resolution at Erie Community College in Buffalo, reports the New York Times.

He’ll need leadership and conflict resolution skills.

(Mohamed) will take over the Western-backed transitional government, which controls just a few blocks of the capital and is struggling for survival amid a sea of Islamist insurgents.

A financial analyst in the Somali Embassy in Washington, Mohamed sought asylum in the U.S. in 1988.  He earned a master’s degree in political science from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and became a community college instructor.  Now a U.S. citizen, Mohamed returned to Somalia only last month.