Harper College Conference Brings Together Chicago Area Peace Educators

By: David J. Smith, March 9, 2015

Harper College’s 5th Annual International Education Summit  held March 6, 2015 was an opportunity to focus on the linkages between global education and teaching about peace.   It featured Chicago area experts who have engaged in international applications of peacebuilding. I had the honor of being the opening keynoter for the conference.

David Smith presenting at Harper College
David Smith presenting at Harper College

In my talk, “Purposeful International Education: Using a Peacebuilding Frame to Advance Global Objectives in Community Colleges,” I urged community colleges to continue to advance global education objectives.  However, in my view efforts can be unfocused and often do not result in lasting impact for students. Some observations I made include:

  • Community colleges have made significant contributions responding to the country’s major challenges
  • Never before have community colleges received so much attention in the press and by policymakers
  • Global competency is more important than ever today
  • We live in a boundary-less world and we must recognize that
  • Community colleges have experienced important demographic change especially from increasing immigrant and military populations
  • As educators, we must use this new found attention to bring focus to international education efforts
  • Internationalization needs to be infused throughout education. The strategy of “global education” as a separate category is unsustainable  in the long term
  • Community colleges are looking for creative ways of contributing to improving community life, both locally and globally
  • Often approaches that community colleges use are cursory and do not result in meaningful student change
  • Giving global education a peacebuilding focus makes for better outcomes and provides students with an understanding on how internationalization can bring about change
  • Peacebuilding approaches in areas such as dialogue, volunteerism, and education provide an  important “means” to peace, rather than an “ends.”

My talk was followed by several breakout sessions:

  • Susan Russell from Northern Illinois University presented on “Global Peace and Conflict Studies: Making Non-violence Relevant for American College Students.” Russell discussed, among other things, her work with youth in the Philippines.
NIU's Susan Russell talks about peacebuilding
NIU’s Susan Russell talks about peacebuilding
  • Mary Trujillo from North Park University talked on “Transformative Teaching: Peace Studies Meets General Education.” She shared approaches that can be used in the classroom to engage students in exploring controversial issues.
North Park University's Mary Tujillo
North Park University’s Mary Trujillo
  • Andrea Molnar from Northern Illinois University presented on “The Role of Peace Education in Conflict Transformation and Peace Building.” She focused on her work in southern Thailand.
Andrea Molnar from NIU
Andrea Molnar from NIU
  • Cris Toffolo from Northeastern Illinois University presented on  “Teaching Human Rights.” Toffolo explored a range of approaches that can be used in looking at human rights including those based in philosophy, law, and activism.
A human rights presentation by Cris Toffolo from NEIU
A human rights presentation by Cris Toffolo from NEIU

The conference was organized by the International Studies and Programs department at Harper College.   The director is Richard Johnson, and he can be reached at rjohnson@harpercollege.edu.

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