Valencia College’s Peace and Justice Initiative Promotes Skill Building and Interdisciplinary Approaches

Valencia College in Orlando, Florida launched its Peace and Justice Initiative (PJI) in 2008. PJI focuses on developing a peace studies curriculum, sponsoring co-curricular activities, offers community outreach, and engages in advancing core Valencia competencies.

One objective is “fostering a connection to Valencia’s technical programs.” For the most part, peace studies has been positioned as a social science and humanities approach to learning. However, in community colleges where large numbers of students are engaged in vocational and career education, peace studies and the related concept of conflict transformation can be applied to improved career and professional outcomes for students. An example is VC’s recently launched course Peace, Conflict and the Police. The course is being offered in the spring 2013. The course description indicates that in the course “students will learn the meaning of peace and investigate… the theories that underlie peace studies. In addition, students will investigate causes of war and violence….Students will investigate the police role in nonviolence movements and learn about occupational and organizational factors that influence police behavior.” An important “applied” component is the requirement that students devise “an alternative framework for the police that emphasize peacekeeping strategies rather than coercive means.”

Through this course, Valencia is taking a leadership role in demonstrating that conflict transformation and peacebuilding approaches in order to have broad based societal impact must be integrated in career fields. In addition to criminal justice, a range of other fields are examining peacebuilding including nursing, paralegal (where course work can exist in conflict resolution and mediation), and homeland security (where course work in international law can be present)

Valencia has focused heavily on building skills for peacebuilding in its student population. Its initial course Introduction to Peace Studies includes strong peace-skill development. Overall, PJI has worked collaboratively among a large group of interdisciplinary faculty. The program has also hosted guest presenters and trainers including Michael Nagler,George Lopez, and Alma Abdul Hadi-Jadallah.

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