On the Frontier of Peace and Conflict Studies: Tulsa Community College

By: David J. Smith, February 16, 2015

The American frontier of the 19th century conjures up images of western towns lacking law and order, cattle drives and rodeos, not so peaceful encounters between eastern migrating “whites” and native populations, and pioneering farmers and their families staking out land claims. This imagery is particularly powerful in Oklahoma, which was long considered exclusive “Indian Territory” until opened up for settlement in 1889.

Working with students at Tulsa Community College
Working with students at Tulsa Community College

But Oklahoma is also a “frontier” in another sense: in teaching peace and conflict related education.   And the trailblazer is Tulsa Community College (TCC) – the only institution of higher education in the state with a program that focuses specifically on peacebuilding.

On February 9, 2015 I had the opportunity to work with students, staff, and faculty at Tulsa Community College. Hosted by Annie Malloy, Cindy Shanks, and Rob Katz, I met with administrators, faculty, and students in examining peacebuilding approaches to learning.

The college can be proud of not only having the state’s only programmatic effort, but also graduating it’s first student: Michelle Harris, who received the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke scholarship, and is now a student in the peace studies program at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Peace as "ends", Peace as "means"
Peace as “ends,” Peace as “means”

During my visit I emphasized the need to integrate the teaching of peacebuilding across the curriculum.   I particularly emphasized the need to focus on “soft skills” which are frequently conflict resolution focused.   Students graduating from college often lack these skills. Peacebuilding education can do much to build these aptitudes that can ensure success for students not only in their professional, but also in their personal lives.

The program has benefited from well-placed write-ups on its activities, and in particular Michelle Harris’ graduation. The Fall 2013 edition of Spotlight on TCC includes a number of articles on the program and Michelle.

Annie Malloy with TCC's recently planted peace pole
Annie Malloy with TCC’s recently planted peace pole

Tulsa’s program recently established a peace garden, which centers on a peace pole. This video titled “International Day of Peace Celebration,” captures the spirit of the day.


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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