Peace and War & Community Colleges

By: David J. Smith, February 1, 2016

This article appeared in the 2016 Winter edition of the CCID Newsletterimgres

By David J. Smith, JD, MS

Educational Consultant and Peacebuilding Trainer; President, Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc.


The effects of torture, the Islamic State, nonviolent responses to Ferguson, the international refugee crisis, how U.S. foreign assistance is spent, global peacebuilding. Reading this list one might conclude that it’s part of a program for policymakers and think-tank wonks. But the audience for this program was not policy professionals but community college educators. The 3rd Annual National Community College Peacebuilding Seminar “Teaching About Global Conflict and Peacebuilding” was held October 23-26, 2015 at the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and sponsored by the NOVA Institute for Public Service. Today, community colleges enroll students from all economic and social backgrounds, ages, as well as increasingly veterans and internationals. But they are often unable to connect with experts and resources examining issues of global conflict, violence, social change, and peacebuilding: all critical issues today. The seminar is designed to build capacity in teaching complex global issues in the classroom.

USIP visit, 10.23.15
Community college seminar visit to USIP, October 23, 2015

The seminar is an opportunity for community college educators to learn from policymakers, scholars, and practitioners about global conflict and responses to violence. Over the past three years 90 educators from 35 community colleges have attended including the Maricopa County Community Colleges, Miami-Dade College, Valencia College, Harper College, Southeastern Community College, Harrisburg Area Community College, Richland College, Tulsa Community College, and Northern Virginia Community College. Rob Katz, an associate professor of humanities and music at Tulsa Community College (TCC) and co-founder of TCC’s peace studies and conflict resolution program attended the 2015 program. In reflecting on the seminar he notes:

Meeting other community college professionals engaged in peacebuilding is both encouraging and necessary. Forming a network of peers who are dedicated to these principles and informing students about ways of thinking about their communities, states, and the world that is an alternative to the unproductive and often violent consequences of conflict is inspiring and allows me to bring new ideas and approaches to my colleagues at TCC and to our students who so desperately need these perspectives. 

The seminar draws an interdisciplinary group of faculty coming from the social sciences, humanities, as well as career and technical education. Besides faculty, representatives from groups supporting community college efforts including NAFSA, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, the American Red Cross, and various nongovernmental organizations have attended the seminar, as well as a number of international educators.

During the 2015 seminar, faculty attended briefings at the U.S. Institute of Peace, the U.S. Diplomacy Center of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. These organizations are eager to work with community colleges to advance international education and global awareness. In addition, experts from the Institute for Economics and Peace, the U.S. Committee on Refugees and Immigrants, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and Saferworld shared about their work. Faculty viewed two films: Circus Without Borders, which examines the efforts to bring hope through circus to communities in arctic Canada and Guinea, and Beneath the Blindfold, which takes an intimate look at those recovering from torture.The next peacebuilding seminar will be held in October 2016. On April 21-23, 2016 the Institute for Public Service will host a program for faculty on environment issues: “Global Climate Change and Environmental Challenges: Approaches to Teaching in Community Colleges.” If you are interested in attending the 2016 environmental or peacebuilding seminars or interested in the work of the Institute for Public Service, contact Linda Campos at If you are interested in the how community colleges are promoting peacebuilding, contact David J. Smith at

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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