Questions and Answers with the Editor
David Smith answers questions about his new book, Peacebuilding in Community Colleges: A Teaching Resource. Smith discusses the relationship between community colleges and global education. He also highlights the benefits and challenges of developing peace and conflict resolution programs at two-year institutions.
What commitment should community colleges have to an internationalized education?
Global education is a vital component of every community college mission, given our understanding of the new nature of community. No matter the character or location of a college, it is inextricably bound up with international populations through commerce and communication. Community colleges serve students from a wide variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, and student body populations often reflect the makeup of the community at large. Community colleges have an obligation to provide the socio-cultural context that will broaden students’ network of learning experiences, giving them the skills and perspectives they need to succeed in a globalized world. Programs in peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and peace studies can coincide with second-language education, geography, world religions, history and culture, and international travel. Not only does this play an important role in raising awareness of the world at large, it provides students and public audiences with the skills and foundational knowledge to further both their professional careers and their personal engagement with the world.
How do communities benefit from peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and peace studies programs at community colleges?
When communities are prone to conflict or violence, education can play an important role in promoting more peaceful worldviews, teaching personal and professional skills, and supporting other organizations and agencies that foster stability. Peacebuilding and peace studies academic programs cover the array of processes and stages in transforming conflict and creating or maintaining sustainable relationships. Learning about peacebuilding also involves learning about other cultures, human rights, humanitarian relief, security, nonviolent conflict resolution, reconciliation
processes, mediation, and many more topics that can contribute positively to community wellness. Such education programs can encourage more civic involvement from community college students and graduates.
How has the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) supported community colleges in expanding their capacity to teach about global conflict and peacebuilding?
USIP includes teaching and training within its mission statement, and it has sponsored faculty and administrative development opportunities for community colleges since the 1990s, including weeklong seminars, curriculum development support, and teaching materials. The Institute has collaborated with community colleges and associations
around the United States, and has hosted seminars at community colleges around the country on regional or ethnic conflict or on a specific discipline. The Institute has also sent staff to assist colleges in designing programs for their institution.
How widespread are peacebuilding, peace studies, and conflict resolution programs and initiatives at community colleges, and what advantages do they have?
Until recently, there have been few established programs at the community college level that focus on teaching students about peaceful approaches to conflict and skills of conflict resolution. As of 2012, twenty-one programs exist across the United States. With nearly 1,200 community colleges currently enrolling eight million credit students, there
is much room for growth. The lack of peace and conflict programmatic efforts available for either career or transfer students does not reflect a lack of faculty and institutional motivation or innovation. Community colleges are uniquely poised to develop curricula and training programs quickly in response to changes in our world. One particular advantage of peace studies programs at community colleges is that they do not dictate what field a student will go
into—they simply, yet powerfully, provide perspective and practical skills. Students in these programs can fulfill requirements for general education, certification, and transfer programs, and in doing so, they also gain knowledge, experience, and skills that will make them at once better citizens and more attractive to transfer institutions and future
employers in all types of fields. As the field of peace studies evolves, it must keep pace with the social issues of the time. Community colleges have the flexibility to respond to changing needs in our communities and our world.
How might institutions choose which type of approach works best for their population?
The second section of this volume demonstrates several approaches for creating engaging programs. The type of program depends on many variables, including student demographics, size of the college, interest from faculty members, support from administration, financial considerations, the curriculum development process of the
institution, and student interest. Some community colleges choose to develop formal academic programs, which can be
full-fledged degree programs or certificate programs. Several of the volume’s contributing experts discuss the process of developing introductory courses, creating a curriculum, and garnering support from their institution. Many of them report having much success when emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of the program and
coordinating with other college initiatives. Others discuss alternative programming options, including not-for-credit courses, continuing education courses, and extracurricular student activities, such as sponsoring
a “peace week” or art festivals. Several chapters incorporate experiential learning, such as study abroad, humanitarian training, and service learning.
What are some of the challenges of implementing a peace studies, social justice, or conflict management program, and how can they be overcome?
There are many challenges inherent in the administrative process, and each institution faces unique circumstances. Successful programs require committed leadership, broad faculty engagement, professional development in related areas, and a willingness to scale up small projects. A significant consideration is the transferability of credits to
four-year programs for those students wishing to continue their education after completing the community college program. The creation of a new program of any kind requires some change in internal culture, and the chapters in this volume are awake to this hurdle and provide excellent guidance, both formal and anecdotal. Once the project is created, institutions face the challenge of marketing the new program and enrolling sufficient students. The name of the program itself sometimes sparks controversy or confusion. Peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and peace studies programs should be clear about the skills and qualities they produce, and institutions can work with employers and collaborate with other colleges to ensure that students fully benefit from this type of education.