Plans Underway for Global Health Seminar for Community Colleges, April 9-11, 2015, Northern Virginia Community College (Registration Deadline: 3/18/15)

By David J. Smith, February 20, 2015

Northern Virginia Community College’s Institute for Public Service will host “Global Health Crises, Pandemics, and Policy Challenges: Approaches to Teaching in Community Colleges” April 9-11, 2015.  The event will be held at Northern Virginia Community College, Alexandria, VA.   The program is for both liberal arts and health sciences faculty, and is designed to build capacity for teaching global public health issues.   During the seminar, participants will learn about current global health issues and how they can be introduced in community colleges.   Attendees will leave  the seminar with concrete ideas on how to integrate topics into their courses and programs.   The agenda is now finalized, and will include:

  • A site visit to the World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization to learn about the organization’s work and how community colleges can use various WHO/PAHO resources.
  • A site visit to the U.S. Institute of Peace to learn about the connection between violent conflict/peacebuilding and global health.
  • A talk by Kathryn Jacobsen, PhD, from George Mason University, the author of Introduction to Global Health, focusing on the major global public health issues of the day.
  • A talk by Ansley Howe, MPH, MSN, CNM, a volunteer with Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres about her work overseas.
  • All day training on Friday, 4/10/15, by the Mid-Atlantic Public Health Training Center based at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University facilitated by Daniel Barnett, MD, MPH.
  • A talk by Richard Skolnik, MPA, from Yale University, the author of Global Health 101, focusing on approaches to teaching global health.
  • A presentation by Lila Fleming, MS, CHES, from Montgomery College, examining how to teach global health issues in the community college classroom.
  • A presentation by Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Zubair Meenai, PhD, about his work on public health issues in India.

The cost for the 2 and 1/2 day program is $200.  For registration and hotel information, go here.   The last day to register is March 18, 2015.

Promoting Peace and Conflict Awareness In Small Town America: Independence, Kansas

By: David J. Smith, February 19, 2015

Using peace and conflict education to promote communities that are vibrant and can thrive in the face of economic and social change is a critical objective of peacebuilding work.   In working with community colleges, I often learn about the greater community the college serves and help consider ways in which peace and conflict efforts can serve larger needs.

Dinner with PTK and Debate Club members

Dinner with PTK and Debate Club members

From February 11-13, 2015 I had the honor of visiting Independence, Kansas. Mary Jo Dancer and Konye Ori at Independence Community College (ICC) hosted me.   The city of Independence with a population of 9,200 is the county seat of Montgomery County, Kansas with 35,400 residents and is located in the southeast corner of Kansas. As a point of comparison, I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, which has a population of 1,000,000. Our county seat is Rockville with 61,000 residents. Ironically, this difference is met with a commonality: both Montgomery County, Kansas and Montgomery County, Maryland are named for Revolutionary War hero Major General Richard Montgomery.   Though communities are often different in many ways, there are things that can connect us.

Mural from downtown Independence, Kansas

Mural from downtown Independence, Kansas

I was invited to Independence Community College to raise awareness of conflict resolution and peacebuilding in the community, and specifically promote the efforts to develop a program at the college.   ICC has a student population of about 1,000, which makes it one of the smallest community colleges in the U.S. At a small institution, the impact that a program could have on students is great. With a small population there is the possibility of exposing nearly every student to peacebuilding and conflict resolution notions and approaches. The program planned includes a core of courses in conflict analysis, peacebuilding, and identity and conflict and will be part of the proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Institute for Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution (to honor the only U.S. president from Kansas).

Rotary members, Konye Ori, seated left

Rotary members; Konye Ori, seated left

More importantly, offering an academic program along with an array of related activities and services on conflict resolution could be of great benefit to the larger community of Independence and the entire county.   As is the case in many parts of the U.S., Independence has suffered from declining population with young people moving to larger cities such as Wichita, Tulsa, and Kansas City. Of late the area has seen employers leaving the area. Most recently Amazon closed a distribution center that had employed 500 residents. This was a major loss for the community, and has been part of an overall trend.

Replica of home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who lived here 1869-1871

Replica of home of Laura Ingalls Wilder who lived here  from 1869-1871

While in Independence, I met with members of the business community; faith community; education leaders; college students, faculty and staff; and gave a talk to the local Rotary club. I learned of the important assets that Independence has such as residents dedicated to small town life, many having deep roots in the community. I also met newer arrivals looking for a slower pace and the opportunity to raise their families where traditional values were important.   Besides having a history that includes an early home of author Laura Ingalls Wilder ( her first book, Little House on the Prairie, is based here) as well as the birthplace of playwright William Inge (the college has an annual festival honoring his life and work), Independence is the home of the Neewollah Festival (Halloween, spelled backwards), which attracts over 20,000 visitors every October.

During times of transition and change, empowering local communities with conflict-based and peacebuilding aptitudes, skills, and resources can offer important means for adjustment and moving forward.   In talking with business leaders, I shared how conflict awareness skills, particularly for younger employees, can better prepare the local workforce.   Encouraging business leaders to develop conflict awareness skills can enable them to better deal with a workforce that is evolving.   By emphasizing peacebuilding, the college can also present itself as an institution prepared to welcome a world changing as a result of globalization and increasing diversity. I was impressed that the college was involved in international exchange, and while there I met students from Turkmenistan. Konye Ori, my host, who teaches communication studies and sponsors the debate club, is a native of Nigeria. This infusion of international cultures will serve the college and greater community well as it prepares for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

Meeting with students at Independence Community College

Meeting with students at Independence Community College

I’ve had the honor of visiting nearly 100 colleges around the U.S., most of them community colleges, and many in small communities such as Independence.  As practitioners and educators, it is important that we share the benefits of peacebuilding and conflict resolution strategies to advance the hopes and dreams of communities that are at times facing uncertain change, but have the determination and “grit” to create positive futures. This is what I found in Independence, Kansas.

Soft Skills and Peacebuilding Awareness: Promoting Business/Educational Partnerships

By: David J. Smith, February 18, 2015

Today, community colleges are focused on a broad range of objectives including liberal arts education, community offerings, and vocational training.   Workforce development is an important emphasis nationwide, and many colleges have been able to forge strong relationships with local businesses that often have national and international reach.

NorthWest Arkansas Community College is located in Bentonville, Arkansas. Bentonville is also the world headquarters of Walmart. Founded by Sam Walton as Walton’s Five and Dime in 1945, today Walmart is an international company with 11,000 locations, employing 2.2 million people with net income of $16.022 in 2013.

NorthWest Arkansas, known as N-WACC in the community, has been able to leverage the presence of Walmart to improve its strategies, as well as offer education and training to Walmart employees and their dependents.

I visited N-WACC on February 10 and gave presentations to faculty and students. Mary Machira, the director of global education at the college, was my host.  We talked about the importance of “soft skills” as being essential to employee success. College leaders shared with me the importance of these skills, and their efforts to make sure that the local population was well-prepared, not only to work in Arkansas, but also internationally.   Learning can be framed as “cognitive” (what you know), “behavioral” (what you do), and “affective” (how you feel).   Though community colleges do a good job at cognitive learning, more emphasis needs to be placed on behavioral learning particularly as it relates to aptitudes such as problem solving, relationship building, and perspective taking, all of which are conflict-related skills.

Walton's Five and Dime, now a museum

Walton’s Five and Dime, now a museum

After my visit, I received a short note from Tim Cornelius, Vice President of Learning – Global Business, Health Professions and External Programs at the college who wrote that the points made about the importance of soft skills “resonated with me as I hear those exact words from employers in the northwest Arkansas area.” A community college that focuses on “soft skills” can position itself to work closely with local business and industry to build a better workforce. This is how N-WACC perceives its relationship with Walmart.

Harper College Hosts 5th Annual International Education Summit

By David J. Smith, February 17, 2015

Since 2011, Harper College in Palatine, Illinois (suburban Chicago) has sponsored an international education summit for staff, faculty, and students. Past summits have focused on faculty development, comprehensive internationalization, and language study.

This year’s summit will be held Friday, March 6, 2015.   The theme will be “Peacebuilding as a Framework for Campus Internationalization.” I am honored to be the keynote speaker. The event starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 2:45 p.m. I will speak on “Purposeful International Education: Using a Peacebuilding Frame to Advance Global Objectives in Community Colleges.”

Afternoon sessions include:

Dr. Susan Russell from Northern Illinois University speaking on “Global Peace and Conflict Studies: Making Non-Violence Relevant for American College Students.”

Dr. Mary Trujillo from North Park University talking on “Transformative Teaching: Peace Studies Meets General Education.”

Dr. Andrea Molnar from Northern Illinois University presenting on “The Role of Peace Education in Conflict Transformation and Peace Building.”

Dr. Cris Toffolo from Northeastern Illinois University speaking on “Teaching Human Rights.”

The conference is not limited Harper faculty and staff, but is open to all. Conference information can found here. Contact Dr. Richard Johnson at for registration information.

On the Frontier of Peace and Conflict Studies: Tulsa Community College

By: David J. Smith, February 16, 2015

The American frontier of the 19th century conjures up images of western towns lacking law and order, cattle drives and rodeos, not so peaceful encounters between eastern migrating “whites” and native populations, and pioneering farmers and their families staking out land claims. This imagery is particularly powerful in Oklahoma, which was long considered exclusive “Indian Territory” until opened up for settlement in 1889.

Working with students at Tulsa Community College

Working with students at Tulsa Community College

But Oklahoma is also a “frontier” in another sense: in teaching peace and conflict related education.   And the trailblazer is Tulsa Community College (TCC) – the only institution of higher education in the state with a program that focuses specifically on peacebuilding.

On February 9, 2015 I had the opportunity to work with students, staff, and faculty at Tulsa Community College. Hosted by Annie Malloy, Cindy Shanks, and Rob Katz, I met with administrators, faculty, and students in examining peacebuilding approaches to learning.

The college can be proud of not only having the state’s only programmatic effort, but also graduating it’s first student: Michelle Harris, who received the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, and is now a student in the peace studies program at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Peace as "ends", Peace as "means"

Peace as “ends,” Peace as “means”

During my visit I emphasized the need to integrate the teaching of peacebuilding across the curriculum.   I particularly emphasized the need to focus on “soft skills” which are frequently conflict resolution focused.   Students graduating from college often lack these skills. Peacebuilding education can do much to build these aptitudes that can ensure success for students not only in their professional, but also in their personal lives.

The program has benefited from well-placed write-ups on its activities, and in particular Michelle Harris’ graduation. The Fall 2013 edition of Spotlight on TCC includes a number of articles on the program and Michelle.

Annie Malloy with TCC's recently planted peace pole

Annie Malloy with TCC’s recently planted peace pole

Tulsa’s program recently established a peace garden, which centers on a peace pole. This video titled “International Day of Peace Celebration,” captures the spirit of the day.

Free Webinar Hosted by the World Affairs Council for Social Justice Day

By: David J. Smith, February 4, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015 is Social Justice Day.   On Wednesday, February 18, 2015 I will facilitate a webinar hosted by the World Affairs Council/DC on social justice.   It is a free event.  It will be held from 2-3 p.m. EST.

This event is over.  You can watch the webinar by clicking on the flyer below.

Webinar Flyer.pdf