By David J. Smith, June 1, 2016
The 6th Annual Graduate Education Symposium in Peace and Conflict Resolution met at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) at George Mason University (GMU) on May 27, 2016. Previous symposiums have been held at Brandeis University, American University, and George Mason University. This year’s theme was “Experiential and Field-Based Learning in Preparing the Next Generation of Peacebuilders.”
The yearly event is an opportunity for educators working with graduate students (certificate, masters and PhD) in conflict resolution, conflict management, peace studies, and related fields to gather to share and reflect on their work, and consider ways of improving student outcomes. Nearly 50 faculty, students, and practitioners met for this year’s program. The symposium followed the three-day Alliance for Peacebuilding conference.
The symposium consisted of two parts. The morning session was designed for directors and faculty involved in programs, and the afternoon session for faculty as well as students, policymakers, and practitioners to consider broader issues of experiential learning.
The morning session focused on field-based learning. Following an overview by Necla Tschirgi of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego, a panel consisting of Agnieszka Paczynska from George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Pushpa Iyer from the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, and Andria Wisler from Georgetown University’s Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching, and Service discussed their experiences with field-work.
This was followed by group sessions on a range of instructional and research issues including ethics, evaluating change, and pedagogical challenges.
Part two of the symposium started after lunch. After opening remarks by Craig Zelizer of the Conflict Resolution Program at Georgetown U., Siddharth Ashvin Shah from Greenleaf Integrative Strategies presented on “Trauma, Stigma and Wellbeing in Peacebuilding.” Shaw examined current research on how practitioners respond to stress and trauma on the job. He also engaged the group in a mindfulness exercise focusing on healing.
Tatsushi Arai of the School for International Training summarized the morning session for the afternoon meeting.
Afternoon breakout sessions included:
- Adina Friedman of S-CAR at GMU who looked at encounters as important to experiential learning
- Sherrill Hayes of the Conflict Management Program at Kennesaw State University, David J. Smith of the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc. and Ernest Ogbozor of S-CAR at GMU considering models for supporting field learning with graduate students
- Thomas Hill and Zachery Metz of the School of Public and International Affairs at Columbia University presenting on “Teaching Applied Peacebuilding in the 21st Century”
- Amy Knorr, Jayne Docherty and Roger Foster of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University looking at how students can have international experiences with their own domestic communities.
The symposium ended with a closing session facilitated by Mara Schoeny of S-CAR at GMU asking the attendees to reflect on the day.
The next symposium’s location has not been determined. The date will correspond with the Alliance for Peacebuilding Conference. If a school is interested in hosting it, please contact Julie Shedd at firstname.lastname@example.org.