Creating Spaces for Emerging Peacebuilders at the Community College Level

By: Katie Zanoni, November 14, 2014*

PJSA 2014

Questioning the dominant paradigm of thinking that has shaped the reality that we live in offers a powerful opportunity. When I zoom outside of my own reality, I recognize the myriad dichotomies that have shaped my positionality within these socially constructed boundaries. The dichotomy of peace and war is one duality that if given space and time to explore can inhabit discussions around everything in between: nonviolence, social justice, human rights, conflict transformation, sustainability and so much more. What would emerge if additional academic environments were available to consider what possibilities might be imagined between and beyond the false binary of peace and war? Would future peacebuilders discover a world that is neither utopian in nature nor bellicose in spirit? As a peace and human rights educator, I was invited to delve into similar questions through my role of co-creating a new Peace Studies (1) Associate degree at San Diego City College (SDCC), a community college that serves an estimated 16,000 students in southern California (Fact Book: City College, 2014). This experience allowed us to sow seeds of institutional change to advance a curriculum steeped in critical pedagogy to explore foundational concepts in Peace Studies and awaken our collective moral imagination to surpass our existing understanding of war and peace (Lederach, 2005). (2)

The germination of these seeds has resulted in two crucial accomplishments. The first is the creation of the only approved Peace Studies Associate Degree in California. The second is that Peace Studies is now a recognized discipline as authorized by the California Academic Senate for Community Colleges. According to research conducted by David Smith, author of Peacebuilding in Community Colleges (2013), SDCC is one of twenty-one campuses in the United States with a similar program. As Smith points out, there are close to 1,200 community colleges in this country. With almost ten percent of those colleges housed in the state of California, these achievements could serve as a viable path for other colleges to institute a similar initiative. To this end, I offer a brief summary of the process we took at SDCC and a summary of a recent visioning exercise that took place at the 2014 Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA) conference. The following steps highlight how we gained campus, district and statewide support for our Peace Studies Associate Degree.

Peace Studies Program at San Diego City College
Required courses from other disciplines: Issues in Environmental Biology; Introduction To Philosophy: Values; Introduction to Cultural Anthropology; Contemporary International Politics; and Introduction to Literature.

New Peace Studies courses (number of students enrolled from 2009-2014): Introduction to Peace Studies (389 students); Nonviolence and Conflict Resolution (261 students); Environmental Sustainability, Justice and Ethics (217); and Field Experience in Peace Studies.

(Data collected from San Diego City College records and from

Step 1: Create an interdisciplinary Peace Studies Curriculum Advisory Committee.

Our team represented faculty from an Anthropological, Philosophical, Biological, Literary, and Peace Studies perspective. In 2001, the faculty initiated the development of this program and drew on the strength of an inter-departmental curriculum committee to establish institutional alliances among other faculty, administrators, and students on campus. In addition to creating the foundation for an authentically interdisciplinary program, our committee members supported this budding initiative during critical budget cuts. This unified voice was supported by the former campus President and resulted in a multilevel effort to launch the program.

Step 2: Survey existing courses at four-year institutions of higher education and community college campuses.

This process offers multiple outcomes including the establishment of sound curriculum, the creation of a network of peace educators, and a survey of where similar courses might articulate into four-year academic institutions. Articulation is vital to the success of a newly developed program at a community college. Our curriculum committee was advised that 80% of the courses in our proposed major should articulate with at least three four-year institutions. While all of the abovementioned outcomes are equally valued, the last point regarding articulation requires more discussion among educators in higher education to collaborate on the development of rising Peace Studies programs at the community college level.

The committee carefully considered existing courses and researched our own disciplines to engage in rich discussions about what would be included and what would be articulated. The campus curriculum committee advised us that the course focused on environmental sustainability was more appropriate as an upper division level and belonged to the four-year institutions. This led the committee to ask the critical question of what structural blockages exist in originating new and innovative curriculum as a community college. Infusing issues of ecology, sustainability, and environmental ethics was crucial to our committee and when this course was criticized based upon the premise that it may not articulate, we were faced with a difficult decision. Do we follow the academic trends of our receiving institutions or do we generate opportunities for our students to engage in relevant content? This conversation deserves more attention and is a area of exploration in connecting four-year institutions to community colleges to create more transfer pipelines and engage in a deeper pedagogical inquiry about generating new curriculum in higher education.

Step 3: Institutionalize the program, courses and the discipline.

Each semester our committee was presented with frightening statistics of classes being cut and concerns that our program might be scaled back. Our committee took great lengths at promoting our program among our student body, within our community, our campus and our state. However, a paradoxical issue arose that further threatened our program. According to some interpretations, one with a Masters Degree in Peace Studies was not eligible to teach Peace Studies due to the fact that it was not a recognized discipline as determined by the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. In order to remedy this issue, our committee proposed a resolution in 2010 and in 2012 to the Academic Senate to have Peace Studies added to the discipline list to avoid further confusion. After the initial proposal was denied in 2010, we revised and resubmitted our proposal and received overwhelming support that resulted in the approval of the discipline in April of 2013.

This step represents a significant success for several reasons. In 2012, there were at least seventeen colleges in California offering courses with the term “peace” included in the title. With a new Peace Studies discipline, faculty can hire academics with a graduate degree in Peace Studies or the equivalent to teach these courses. The benefit of this development is that the creation of a new discipline does not preclude a college from hiring a Political Scientist to teach a Peace Studies course housed in the Political Science department. In the contrary, it offers the freedom to increase the hiring pool to include professors with a Peace Studies graduate degree. A second benefit is that community colleges hoping to design similar initiatives can lean on the credibility that comes with establishing a stand-alone discipline. Graduates from Peace Studies can continue to be recognized as experts in the field thus resulting in a broader range of peace educators in the academy.

Step 4: Create a preferred future for the Peace Studies program at SDCC.

Drawing from the work of Elise Boulding, a visioning workshop was presented at the 2014 PJSA conference to identify how the degree program could be expanded, further institutionalized, and duplicated. The visioning exercise was co-facilitated to address limitations and invite new recommendations for Peace Studies programming in California. The visioning exercise was organized around the following inquiry: What strategies can be used to increase awareness and build community to strengthen Peace Studies programming within higher education in California?  Participants brainstormed ideas in small groups using the backcasting model to “create a preferred image of the state of Peace Studies at the college level in California in 2050” (Bodinet & Zanoni, 2014). The conversations resulted in ideas that included, 1) the need to institutionalize Peace Studies within formal schooling in the United States from kindergarten through to the collegiate level, 2) the recommendation to gain support on a national, state, and district wide policy level to recognize Peace Studies as a viable and necessary component to our educational system (3), and 3) the desire to integrate topics related to Peace Studies within existing disciplines in the formal educational system in the United States. Indeed, this is just the beginning of a larger conversation that we wish to open up to all stakeholders invested in creating educational spaces where our minds and hearts are opened to invite social action toward transformation to consider a world where sustainable positive peace is possible.


(1) For the purpose of this article, Peace Studies is the discipline referred to throughout and encompasses all related programs within the umbrella of Peace and Conflict Studies.
(2) According to John Paul Lederach (2005), the moral imagination is the “capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist” (p. ix).
(3) Examples from the Philippines, Costa Rica, and Kenya can be drawn from to review national policy that have included language on peace education.


-  Bodinet, J. & Zanoni, K. (2014). “Institutionalizing Peace Studies at San Diego Community College”. Workshop at the Peace and Justice Studies Association Conference on “Courageous Presence”, San Diego, CA.
–  Fact Book: City College. (2014). Retrieved from Reports/College and District Fact Books/2014/Fact_Book_City_2014.pdf
–  Lederach, J. P. (2005). The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace. Oxford, MA: Oxford University Press.
–  Smith, D. (2013). Peacebuilding in Community Colleges: A Teaching Resource. Washington DC: United States Institute of Peace Press.

About the Author:

Katie Zanoni served as the Peace Studies Curriculum Advisory Chair at San Diego City College from 2007-2013 and is currently pursuing a doctorate degree at the University of San Francisco in International and Multicultural Education with a concentration in Human Rights Education. For more information about the SDCC Peace Studies program or to join the conversation to envision the further institutionalization of Peace Studies in formal educational settings at the Community College, please contact

Portions of this article appeared in the Peace and Justice Studies Association Newsletter (Winter 2014) under the title, “Community Colleges: A Home for Future Peacebuilders” by Katie Zanoni and were edited and updated for this publication.

*This piece originally appeared in the Global Campaign for Peace Education Newsletter #115, November 2014

Ebola-Fragility Tandem: From Epidemic to Instability…

David J. Smith:

An important analysis of the conflict implications of Eloba.

Originally posted on African Praxis:

The Ebola virus has started a vicious journey in each of the countries at the epicenter of the epidemic: Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. A journey that most likely began in the forest of the Mano river region; resulting in multiple deaths, destruction of families and communities and inexorably destabilizing existing fragile systems (health, education, economic, domestic and cross border trade), as well as state institutions.

The rising human toll of more than 2 700 deaths according to the World Health Organization is worrisome; and the predictions from health officials to contain this virus are not encouraging at the moment. According to most health experts and specialized institutions, the situation in West Africa will deteriorate before getting better (hopefully). Unfortunately, the death toll and to some extent the economic impact are just the visible tip of the iceberg. Currently, the institutional and social impacts of the Ebola epidemic are yet…

View original 587 more words

Soft Skills, Conflict Resolution, and Workforce Preparation

By: David J. Smith, November 3, 2014

I have previously written about the need for career education, particularly at the community college level, to emphasis “soft skills” as part of vocational preparation.  Programs often focus significant attention on technical skills without recognizing that it is often soft skills which make the difference in a new employee succeeding at work.   Fields where interpersonal interaction is a significant part of the work environment must especially give equal attention to preparing  new employees to deal with conflict, cultural diversity, working in teams,  sorting out competing priorities, and other situations where soft skills are demanded.

A good example is nursing, where young nurses can find themselves in situations where they are dealing with hostile co-workers and supervisors.  Lena Choudhary of Anne Arundel Community College (MD) in “Lateral Violence in Healthcare Environments: Anne Arundel Community College’s Approach to Teaching Conflict Management Skills” (page 14), published in the May 2014 edition of Nevada RNFormation, addresses approaches to preparing entry level nurses for dealing with conflict.   Other career education fields would be wise to consider developing similar instructional strategies.

On October  30, 2014 at Cuyahoga Community Community in Cleveland, OH I offered a workshop for students titled “Peace, Conflict and Careers: How Can I Become a Professional Peacebuilder?”  The objective of the 90 minute session was to have students reflect on ways in which their careers can benefit from applying soft skills. I was hosted by the Global Issues Resource Collaborative.


I shared statistics from  Consulting Psychologists Press which points to the need to focus on negotiation and conflict sensitive skills.   For instance, the average worker spends 2.8 hours a week dealing with conflict in the office. And 42% of employees felt that their employers needed to do a better job of addressing personal conflicts in the workplace. “Chronic unresolved conflict” is the deciding factor in 50% of cases where an employee decides to leave his job, and is one of the primary reasons cited in 90% of terminations.

Working on a list of skills

Working on a list of skills

Next, I asked students to consider 3 soft skills/abilities and how they might be used in the workplace.  This was done in groups.  Students responded with skills/abilities such as listening, negotiating, taking leadership, and cultural sensitivity.  The lists were then posted around the room.

Students running their skit

Students running their skit

Finally, working again in groups (but reconfigured), I had students consider scenarios where employees were faced with conflict at work.  Students were asked to pick the necessary skills they might apply from the lists, and finally present a short skit on how the situation might run if the skills were used.  Scenarios  included a new nurse facing hostility from a supervisor because of her ethnicity, a young staff accountant dealing with an angry client, and a  volunteer firefighter standing up to his fellow firefighters who are bullying a new member because of her sexual identity.  They are attached below.

"Acting out" the solution

“Acting out” the solution

I find that students on career paths can identify the soft skills needed in dealing with others, resolving conflict, and promoting cultural differences at work. However, faculty infrequently provide opportunities for students to work on these skills.

THE NEW NURSE PDF David J. Smith 10.2014



“A Year of Social Justice” at Anne Arundel Community College

By: David J. Smith, October 21, 2014

In these two short interviews, I talk about my presentation at Anne Arundel Community College and the meaning of social justice.

Interview at Anne Arundel Community College on social justice, October 1, 2014

Interview at Anne Arundel Community College on social justice, October 1, 2014


David Smith defines social justice at AACC, October 1, 2014

David Smith defines social justice at AACC, October 1, 2014

Making the Work Life and Personal Life Links to Conflict Resolution Skills

By: David J. Smith, October 21, 2014

I recently (10/14/14) visited Sinclair Community College in Dayton, OH.   While there, I ran two programs: one for faculty on understanding the field, and the second for students on career and personal skill awareness.

I’ve come to realize that we need to make a strong case to undergraduates about the value of conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills in both their personal and professional lives.   This is particularly important in community colleges where most students are focused on job preparedness.  In community colleges today two overriding policy agendas are advanced: workplace preparation and academic completion.  Both priorities can be promoted by having students recognize the connection between conflict resolution abilities and work/personal applications.

I have previously written about the need to focus on soft skills in careers (“The Importance of Conflict Resolution Skills in the Workplace”). These skills are equally important to succeed and navigate one’s personal life.   Life presents daily conflicts and points of difference that need to be worked through.   As a first step, I recommend that everyone (especially students) take the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles Assessment.  U.S. Institute of Peace has a version on its Global Peacebuilding Center website that you can use for free.  Once completed, you will know your “default” approach to conflict, and can consider how to leverage that approach, or develop different approaches.

At Sinclair Community College I had students work in groups of 5 to examine typical life and work situations where they might be called upon to use conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills.  I have attached three of the case studies that I used with students: Problems at the Roller Rink, New Employees at the Diner, and Getting Along at Home.

I also recommend chapter 6 of my book, Peacebuilding in Community Colleges: A Teaching Resource.  In their chapter titled “Developing a Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies Program,” Jen Batton and Susie Lohwater discuss how conflict resolution skills apply to everyday life and the world of work.

My visit was written about in the October 21, 2014 edition of The Clarion, the student newspaper of Sinclair Community College.



GETTING ALONG AT HOME PDF, David J. Smith, 10.2014

Final Day of National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar: Visits to State Department, Organization of American States, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

By: David J. Smith, October 21, 2014

The final day of the National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar was held on Monday, October 20.  The day was designed as a “field day” with visits to peacebuilding related institutions for educational programs and briefings on their work.

Meeting the Lauren Fisher

Meeting  with Lauren Fischer

The first visit was to the U.S. Department of State.   The group was hosted by Lauren Fischer of the U.S. Diplomacy Center, State’s public education arm.  Lauren shared information on the plans for the center which will open in 2 years.   The center is expected to host educational groups, including community colleges.   She was followed by Dan Langenkamp from the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.  He explained the bureau’s work and shared that 70,000 refugees come to the U.S. every year: the largest number of other country.

Stats of where refugees are coming from

Where refugees are coming from

After the State Department, faculty visited the Organization of American States, the oldest regional organization in the world. The  Department of  Human Development, Education and Employment hosted the group.   Nichole Duncan shared with the group scholarship opportunities at OAS, Juliet Mallet Phillip discussed the broader work of OAS,  Ana Maria Ortiz talked about education opportunities, Lina Sevillano shared by the Rowe Fund, and Yadiro Soto briefed the group on the peacebuilding work of  OAS.  Other specialists also covered other aspects of the work of OAS.

Visiting the OAS

Visiting the OAS

Finally, participants were hosted by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  Christina Chavarria and Kristin Thompson ran an educational program to the group.  An aspect of the program was visiting the Some Were Neighbors exhibit.

With Christina Chavarria at the USHMM

With Christina Chavarria at the USHMM

Third Day of the National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar

By: David J. Smith, October 19, 2014

Teaching peace,  case studies, nonviolent strategies, and human
rights were featured on the third day of National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar held on October

Colman McCarthy  preaching peace

Colman McCarthy preaching peace

The morning started with Colman McCarthy advocating for the need to teach peace studies.  He was followed by a presentation from representatives of  the Student Peace Alliance, Sally Kaplan and Dan Kahn.

Presentation by the Student Peace Alliance

Presentation by the Student Peace Alliance

During lunch, Karina Korostelina of George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution discussed identity and the crisis in Ukraine.  She was followed by Hardy Merriman from the International Center on Nonviolence Conflict who presented a mock lesson on teaching about nonviolent activism.   Jean Schindler then shared about the opportunities for students participating in the Emergent Leaders Network.

Jean Schindler

Jean Schindler

Google chat with Lindsay Padilla from Solano Community College

Google chat with Lindsay Padilla from Solano Community College

In the afternoon, Rhonda Fitzgerald engaged participants in activities that might be used in a Sustained Dialogue training.  This was followed by several faculty who attended last year’s program talking about what they are doing at their colleges.   This was followed by Lindsay Padilla for the Stanford Human Rights Education Initiative talking about her approaches to teaching human rights.  The day ended with Nabil Al-Tikriti from the University of Mary Washington discussing the work of Médecins Sans Frontières.

Nabil Al-Tikriti of the University of Mary Washington

Nabil Al-Tikriti of the University of Mary Washington

Coffee breaks were sponsored by  Street Law, Inc. and CCID: Community Colleges for International Development, Inc..