The International Education Peacebuilding Nexus

By: David J. Smith, December 2, 2014

International Education Week (IEW),  jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, is an opportunity to promote global approaches to teaching and learning.  This year it was held November 17-21, 2014, though educational programs are often held before and after the official week.

This year I had the opportunity to visit several community colleges during IEW: Prince George’s Community (MD), Butte College (CA), Northwest Vista College (TX), and Northern Virginia Community College.   During my presentations and programs, I emphasized the benefits of using a peacebuilding frame in promoting global education.   Often international education efforts, though well-meaning, are unfocused, inconsistent, and not coordinated. As a result, it is difficult to measure whether strategies are actually resulting in increasing awareness of international affairs, developing a worldview, and building skills that can advance working in global environments.

The Lederach/Mansfield Strategic Peacebuilding Pathways framework is useful in providing a model of how peacebuilding relates to global work.

Strategic Peacebuilding Pathways (Lederach/Mansfield, University of Notre Dame)


The framework is helpful in that it identifies specific career paths that students can pursue in engaging in international work including humanitarian action, education, trauma healing, and restorative justice.  Though I use the model in global applications, I find it works well in thinking about more domestic oriented career opportunities.  This is important with community colleges in that most graduates will work and live in the same communities where they attended school.  In looking at humanitarian action, in a global context we might explore careers with international NGOs like the International Committee of the Red Cross  or Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières.  But humanitarian work can be also be found in working for a local aid group such as Habitat for Humanity or the local American Red Cross chapter.

Working with students at Butte College
Working with students at Butte College

During my visit to Prince George’s Community College (11/14/14) I explored with students the notion of “soft skills” that are often conflict focused, and how they might be applied in employment situations that have “global” contexts such as in hiring new employees who are recent immigrants.  At Butte College (11/17/14), students were asked to consider their views of peace and conflict.   Through this exploration, students came to understand differences often based in culture in how conflict is considered.  In a workshop with faculty,  I shared with them how peacebuilding can be used to foster dialogic approaches to learning about each other and international issues.   In a faculty program at Northern Virginia Community College (11/18/14),  we considered how peacebuilding using the Lederach/Mansfield frame can achieve objectives including global awareness.   Finally, at Northwest Vista College (11/24/14), students considered specific professional and personal situations where conflict resolution strategies would be helpful, especially where those in conflict are from different cultures and backgrounds.

Faculty workshop at Butte College
Faculty workshop at Butte College

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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