As part of the recognition of International Education Week, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and NAFSA: Association for International Educators held a jointly sponsored event on November 19, 2019 at USIP: The Role of Higher Education in Resolving Conflict and Its Consequences. The event was livestreamed and the archived video from the event is here. My key take aways from the event follow.
The event opened with Jill Welch, Vice President of External Relations at USIP. Her welcome mentioned that students and faculty where listening at a number of schools by livestream including at Kennesaw State University, Salisbury University, and Temple University. Over the past 35 years, USIP has given grants to some 967 institutions of higher education to advance peacebuilding. An outcome of that is 400 peace and conflict programs in U.S. colleges and universities. USIP continues to advance education in higher education particularly through its Global Campus, where free courses can be accessed.
Esther Brimmer, CEO and Executive Director of NAFSA shared about NAFSA’s origins in post World War II efforts to advance international education including the recently established Fulbright program. NAFSA was founded in 1948. NAFSA will launched a “peace and social justice” effort at its upcoming 2020 conference in St. Louis, MO.
Melanie Greenberg, Managing Director for Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation at Humanity United, spoke about the efforts starting in the 1980s to support peace and conflict initiatives in higher education by groups such as the Hewlett Foundation. She shared that deadly conflict is inevitable, that prevention is critical, and that prevention is possible. She talked about the importance of listening skills, dialogue, and dealing with trauma in peacebuilding.
Greenberg was followed by a panel of four academics and practitioners.
LaNitra Berger, Senior Director of Fellowships at George Mason University, discussed the groundbreaking work that the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution has done in advancing education in the field. She also mentioned working with Fulbrighters through the Fulbright Noir and Fulbright Salam efforts that raise the profile of Fulbrighters from minority backgrounds.
Thomas Hill, Director of the Peace Research and Education at New York University, discussed his work in Iraq over a span of 20 years supporting peacebuilding programs.
Shirin Catterson Khosropour, Director, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Austin Community College shared about her efforts. She mentioned that over 40% of U.S. college students are in community colleges and that they represent the broadest range of diversity including students who are refugees and veterans. Community colleges can make significant contributions to the field working through courses, public gatherings, and in other ways in a more nimble way than traditional universities. For instance, at Austin, there has been an effort to infuse peace and conflict themes among a range of courses such as psychology and political science. She also discussed her own journey in building her program and peacebuilding efforts starting with attending a USIP seminar designed for community college faculty in 2007.
Beza Tesfaye, Senior Researcher from Mercy Corps, discussed her group’s work particularly in countries that rate high on violence based on the Global Peace Index. She emphasized Mercy Corps work with youth impacted by violence. She also mentioned her group’s effort to advance the Global Fragility Act.
Jill Welch mentioned NAFSA’s current efforts with community colleges which will continue. Several panelists mentioned the importance of working with veterans and bringing them into the classroom as students and experts. Lifelong learning was also raised, particularly with audiences not generally considered in peacebuilding efforts and those beyond the Washington “beltway.”