Reflections on 2013

Students at the Atlantic Hope Exercise at Indian River State College, March 2013
Students at the Atlantic Hope Exercise at Indian River State College, March 2013

As the year comes to a close, the number of community colleges promoting peacebuilding continues to grow.    American and Canadian community colleges with identifiable programs or initiatives stand at 30 with efforts initiated in the past year at Green River Community College (WA) and Austin Community College (TX).  In addition, existing initiatives are planning more robust efforts including at Valencia College (FL), Montgomery College (MD), and Richland College (TX).  The success of the Montgomery College (MD) Peacebuilding Seminar   – Global Conflict and Peacebuildng: A Seminar for Community College Faculty – where nearly 30 faculty from 12 colleges gathered in October as well as the 6th International Conflict Resolution Education Summit in Cleveland which brought together nearly 40 U.S. and Canadian community college educators will likely mean the development of more efforts in 2014.  It is important that community college professionals continue to meet to focus on programmatic development and outreach efforts.

Faculty attending the 6th International Conflict Resolution Education Summit at Cuyahoga Community College, June 2013
Faculty attending the 6th International Conflict Resolution Education Summit at Cuyahoga Community College, June 2013

Though momentum continues, some programs are vulnerable as a result of leadership changes in 2013 including at Cuyahoga Community College (OH) and Nashua Community College (NH).   Other programs are also expected to experience faculty and staff turnover in 2014, some as a result of retirement.   Because programs at community colleges are dependent on faculty and administrative leadership, it is important that program direction and teaching come from a broad-based and college-wide interdisciplinary group.

A major setback for advancing peacebuilding in higher education overall in 2013 was the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and Institute of International Education ending the Public Education for Peacebuilding Support Program.   Launched in late 2012 to start in 2013, the program provided up to $2,000 in funding for U.S. colleges, universities, and public libraries advancing peacebuilding work.  Over the course of two grant periods,  20 community colleges were provided with funds to support a range of activities including conflict resolution education training, public presentations by peacebuilding professionals, humanitarian education programs, and the purchase of materials to support peacebuilding efforts.    The program was an ideal way of advancing  USIP’s mission and brand, as well as incubating small scale efforts across the country.   Unfortunately, no public explanation has been provided for ending the program.  This is also unfortunate in that this has the potential of alienating those who can best promote USIP’s work.   In that USIP continues to be vulnerable to the political winds of Washington, promoting USIP’s mission nationally is an important bulwark against further erosion of Congressional support.

Another unfortunate policy change was the decision by the American Red Cross (ARC) to move away from programmatic work advancing International Humanitarian Law (IHL) with faculty in U.S. colleges and universities, announced in December.   ARC will continue to advance IHL but through student peer to peer efforts.  The Emerging Humanitarian Law site will continue to be maintained.  A number of community colleges have made important strides in incorporating the teaching of humanitarian law at their schools.

Peace educator Colman McCarthy discusses defense spending at Montgomery College, October 2013
Peace educator Colman McCarthy discusses defense spending at Montgomery College, October 2013

Though the current interest in community colleges as engines of economic growth and employment is important and laudable, it runs the risk of minimizing the role that community colleges can play in advancing liberal arts education, civic engagement, global awareness, and peace education.  The Democracy Commitment continues to make the case that community colleges have an important role in advancing democracy education. During 2013, Street Law, Inc., a DC based educational not for profit that has worked with high schools for 40 years, has been successful in promoting civic engagement, human rights, and legal education in a number of community colleges.  The Stanford Human Rights Education Initiative  (SHREI) has worked to promote human rights education in community colleges.  Ultimately, finding a way of bringing together career and liberal arts objectives through peacebuilding, global, and conflict resolution education should be the desired goal.

A solid foundation for peacebuilding efforts at 2-year colleges was established in 2013. The publication of Peacebuilding in Community Colleges: A Teaching Resource by USIP Press in June meant that a resource is now available to faculty and professionals contemplating peace and conflict efforts.   The book continues to be well received and has been promoted at a number of conflict resolution, peacebuilding, international education, and community college gatherings in 2013.  A number of articles  promoting the book were published during 2013.

Looking forward to 2014, sessions at the Community College for International Development conference in Las

David Smith presenting to students at the College of Southern Maryland, November 2013
David Smith presenting to students at the College of Southern Maryland, November 2013

Vegas in February will focus on community college peacebuilding efforts as well as how the Fulbright Program can support community colleges in promoting global peace.   A peacebuilding faculty seminar is planned for Scottsdale Community College (SCC) in Arizona in April as part of the college’s Genocide Awareness Week.   Because SCC is part of the Maricopa system, it is likely faculty from a number of Phoenix area schools will attend.   In June, the 7th International Conflict Resolution Education Summit will take place at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.  A number of community college focused sessions are planned including a 2-day session after the main conference focusing on the development of peace and conflict programs. 2014 looks bright for the continued advancement of peacebuilding in community colleges.

This blog was started in March and this is the 51st post.  I wish to thank all readers and supporters of this effort.   If you have news in the coming year on conflict resolution, peace studies, global studies, peacebuilding and related areas in community colleges, please share it with me and I can post here.   The more that others know about your work, the more it can be replicated to advance the field. And the more we can advance a culture of peace in Canada, the U.S., and globally.

Have a peaceful, restful and enjoyable holiday, and a prosperous New Year, and see you again in 2014.

Published by David J. Smith

I am a career coach, consultant, and head of a not for profit - the Forage Center - that offers humanitarian education training. I also teach at George Mason University and Drexel University. A one time lawyer, I spent many years teaching in a community college where I was a Fulbright U.S. Scholar teaching in Estonia. I'm the author of Peace Jobs: A Student's Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (IAP 2016). I've been married to my best friend for over 31 years and we have two well adjusted adult children who teach me something new everyday. I live in Rockville, Maryland.

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