Preparing for a Career as a Peacebuilder: Learning Arabic, Going Abroad, and Studying Peace

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week (10/10-10/11) I visited Austin Community College (ACC) in Austin, TX to meet with students, educators, and community members on peacebuilding and careers. This was my third visit to ACC, and I have been honored over the years to work with the founder of the peace and conflict program there, Dr. Shirin Khosropour.  We started working together in 2007 after she attended a community college program I was running at USIP.  She is a visionary and an heartfelt educator who everyday strives to promote peace with her students and colleagues.

My focus on this visit was looking at career preparation.  As you might know, I work extensively with community colleges, often seen as the primary vocational educator for Americans.   My book, Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working Peace (Information Age Publishing 2016), examines the myriad of ways in which one can launch a career working on conflict across many fields.  Community colleges are ideal settings to share peace-related career ideas.

A major theme that emerged during my visit was preparation for careers.  Often young college students are eager to get at the work of peace.  But to best set themselves up for a profession, there is much they can do in college.

I used the example of my son Lorenzo who is in the Peace Corps serving in Namibia.  He graduated from the University of Maryland in 2016, but as a junior took a semester to study in an university in Istanbul, Turkey.  As a family, we always traveled.  And his awareness of living overseas might have started when we lived in Estonia when he was 9 and I was teaching in the U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program. Having confidence building experiences through study abroad (and extensive travel) and other overseas opportunities is an essential part of preparing for working in peace.

In Austin, on the first night there was a reception that Shirin organized with students and colleagues.   I met a number of community college students studying Arabic.  Some were older, but most were younger looking to eventually transfer to a 4-year institution (the University of Texas was a major preference), and study international relations, culture, political science, and global security.   They saw studying Arabic at ACC as an essential part of that process.

In our sessions at ACC, we talk extensively about experiences in college to better expose a student to global issues and cultures.  Besides study abroad, which tends to be short term in community colleges, students can engage in taking courses that have  global themes (like peace and conflict resolution), participate in clubs and other activities, engage with the local diaspora community (which might include refugees), and develop an awareness and resiliency which will serve them in their future peacebuilding ambitions.

How to Celebrate the Fourth of July Like a Peace Corps Volunteer

By: David J. Smith, June 29, 2017

As you might know, my son Lorenzo is currently serving his country in the Peace Corps teaching mathematics in Namibia. He is living the advice of John F. Kennedy who established the Peace Corps in 1961.


I came across this article from 2015 on the Peace Corps website about how Peace Corps volunteers spend the 4th of July.   Take a look, and this holiday remember those who are serving their country overseas including in the Peace Corps.

Click below for the piece

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Minnesota Road Trip: Three Colleges and a Coffee

By: David J. Smith, April 12, 2017

I’m just finishing a two day visit to colleges in the southeastern Minnesota region.   I visited St. Cloud State University (SCSU), North Hennepin Community College (NHCC), and Winona State University (WSU).  In addition, I stopped over to have coffee at Peace Coffee,  in Minneapolis. My trip was sponsored by Minnesota’s Educators for Global Learning, an organization of college faculty dedicated to promoting global education.

St. Cloud State University: Peacebuilding Opportunities

On April 10, I visited St. Cloud State University.   My audience consisted primarily of SCSU faculty and staff.  We were joined by a faculty member of the peace studies program at the the College of Saint Benedict/St. John’s University.  In my presentation I emphasized the opportunities for students in peacebuilding and social justice related fields.  We explored international education including study abroad and extra-curricular approaches.

North Hennepin Community College: Welcoming International Students

On April 11, I visited North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park.  Here, the emphasis was on community college students, and the approaches they might use to develop careers.  In our conversation, a student raised the need for opportunities for students to engage across cultures.   There was interest in establishing a club or group of students that would celebrate multiple cultures and advance learning and sharing about students’ backgrounds and living in U.S.  A similar club exists at Collin College in Texas.

A conversation at North Hennepin Community College

Winona State University: Career Pathways for Millennials

Finally, I visited with faculty and students at Winona State University. Here, the emphasis was on helping students examine specific international career pathways. Students were particularly interested in careers that had them working for NGOs, in international diplomacy, and participating in programs like the Peace Corps.

Students at Winona State University

And a Cup of Coffee

In my drive from NHCC to Winona State, I stopped by Peace Coffee, a local coffee establishment. I highly recommend the shop!  The service  and coffee were first rate, and I had a chance to talk with staff about my book.

Peace Coffee
Service at Peace Coffee