Waubonsee Community College Advancing Peace Studies Effort

By: David J. Smith, March 9, 2015

On March 5, 2015, I had the honor of visiting Waubonsee Community College (WCC) near Aurora, IL.   At the invitation of Ellen Lindeen, who leads the college’s peace and conflict effort, I spoke to students and faculty about approaches that community colleges can take to advance peacebuilding and conflict resolution education.   In the morning session we explored how conflict sensitive skills can be helpful personally and in careers. Teaching conflict resolution aptitudes should be a critical aspect of career education. This was followed by lunch with college leadership and faculty including WCC’s president Christine J. Sobek.


Speaking to about 150 students at Waubonsee Community College

Speaking to about 150 students at Waubonsee Community College

In the afternoon, I held a second session with students and faculty on peacebuilding. In this session, we also explored individual meanings of peace and conflict. Waubonsee Community College currently offers two peace studies courses: Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution and Human Rights and Social Justice. The college is looking to expand its offerings. For more information, contact Ellen Lindeen at elindeen@waubonsee.edu.

Harper College Conference Brings Together Chicago Area Peace Educators

By: David J. Smith, March 9, 2015

Harper College’s 5th Annual International Education Summit  held March 6, 2015 was an opportunity to focus on the linkages between global education and teaching about peace.   It featured Chicago area experts who have engaged in international applications of peacebuilding. I had the honor of being the opening keynoter for the conference.

David Smith presenting at Harper College

David Smith presenting at Harper College

In my talk, “Purposeful International Education: Using a Peacebuilding Frame to Advance Global Objectives in Community Colleges,” I urged community colleges to continue to advance global education objectives.  However, in my view efforts can be unfocused and often do not result in lasting impact for students. Some observations I made include:

  • Community colleges have made significant contributions responding to the country’s major challenges
  • Never before have community colleges received so much attention in the press and by policymakers
  • Global competency is more important than ever today
  • We live in a boundary-less world and we must recognize that
  • Community colleges have experienced important demographic change especially from increasing immigrant and military populations
  • As educators, we must use this new found attention to bring focus to international education efforts
  • Internationalization needs to be infused throughout education. The strategy of “global education” as a separate category is unsustainable  in the long term
  • Community colleges are looking for creative ways of contributing to improving community life, both locally and globally
  • Often approaches that community colleges use are cursory and do not result in meaningful student change
  • Giving global education a peacebuilding focus makes for better outcomes and provides students with an understanding on how internationalization can bring about change
  • Peacebuilding approaches in areas such as dialogue, volunteerism, and education provide an  important “means” to peace, rather than an “ends.”

My talk was followed by several breakout sessions:

  • Susan Russell from Northern Illinois University presented on “Global Peace and Conflict Studies: Making Non-violence Relevant for American College Students.” Russell discussed, among other things, her work with youth in the Philippines.
NIU's Susan Russell talks about peacebuilding

NIU’s Susan Russell talks about peacebuilding

  • Mary Trujillo from North Park University talked on “Transformative Teaching: Peace Studies Meets General Education.” She shared approaches that can be used in the classroom to engage students in exploring controversial issues.
North Park University's Mary Tujillo

North Park University’s Mary Trujillo

  • Andrea Molnar from Northern Illinois University presented on “The Role of Peace Education in Conflict Transformation and Peace Building.” She focused on her work in southern Thailand.
Andrea Molnar from NIU

Andrea Molnar from NIU

  • Cris Toffolo from Northeastern Illinois University presented on  “Teaching Human Rights.” Toffolo explored a range of approaches that can be used in looking at human rights including those based in philosophy, law, and activism.
A human rights presentation by Cris Toffolo from NEIU

A human rights presentation by Cris Toffolo from NEIU

The conference was organized by the International Studies and Programs department at Harper College.   The director is Richard Johnson, and he can be reached at rjohnson@harpercollege.edu.

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 rjohnson@harpercollege.edu for registration information.