At the annual meeting of the East Coast Colleges Social Science Association (formerly the Eastern Community Colleges Social Science Association) or ECCSSA, peacebuilding themes predominated the 2-day conference in Herndon, Virginia. The overall theme of the gathering was “The Way of Return: Ushering in the Renaissance of the 21st Century: Models for Teaching, Leadership, and Creativity.” Presenters hailed from across the U.S. including from Morgan State University, Northern Virginia Community College, Montgomery College, Colorado Technical University, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, and Georgetown University. Also joining the gathering was the president of Dominica State College (DSC), Dr. Donald Peters. DSC is located on the Caribbean island nation of Dominica.

The conference featured a number of presentations that emphasized the potential for community colleges to promote conflict resolution, global awareness, and peacebuilding. Of note were:

  • A presentation by Esther Schwartz-McKinzie from Montgomery College which featured the work from her sabbatical in promoting opportunities for returning veterans in community colleges. Her session, titled “In Their Own Words, Montgomery College Student Veterans,” featured the showing of a video that was produced to raise awareness of veterans issues in community colleges.
  • Author Sharon Ewell-Foster, the 2012 winner of the Shaara Prize for Fiction, talked about her book The Resurrection of Nat Turner. Her presentation emphasized the need for engaging students in historical “fact-checking” in order to eliminate distortions that exist about social justice and U.S. history.
  • Northern Virginia Community College’s Anny Ojekwe discussed the importance of service learning in community colleges as a means of increasing civic engagement. Her presentation was titled “Teaching and Learning Through Service Learning.”

Overall, the conference featured a range of presentations from faculty from the social sciences, humanities, performing arts, business, and technical education designed to “encourage sustainability and change, peacemaking practices, strategies for conflict resolution, community involvement, cross curricula themes, shared universal responsibility” among other objectives.