By: David J. Smith, April 21, 2017
Ten years ago on April 16, 2007 the deadliest shooting on a U.S. college campus in history took place at Virginia Tech. That morning 32 members of the campus community – students, faculty, and staff – were killed. The gunman committed suicide. In the ensuing years, the university has moved forward promoting peace through its Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. Recent media focused on the 10 year anniversary and center’s role. In 2008 while at the U.S. Institute of Peace, I had the opportunity to visit the center. At the time, my colleagues and I offered support to the director Jerzy Nowak and the university community in considering approaches to teaching peace. The result of our efforts was the development of a minor in peace studies.
I had the opportunity today to return to Virginia Tech and visit the center. Most of the violence that morning took place in Norris Hall. When I visited in 2008, the hall was still closed, but it reopened in 2009. Today, it houses the center. The current director Jim Hawdon and office manager Amy Splitt hosted me the past two days when I was the keynote speaker for the “Cultivating Peace: A Student Research Symposium on Violence Prevention.”
The presence of the center in Norris Hall speaks to the power of peace in prevailing over the culture of violence that prevails in our society. At Virginia Tech, the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention reminds the world that the work of peace and violence prevention requires focused and continual effort. I was pleased to return to support the center, and honor the memory of those lost on April 16, 2007.