A Peace and Conflict Studies major at Midd?

This semester, Middlebury students have begun a campaign to start an interdisciplinary Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) program at Middlebury. Student-run initiatives have brought similar programs to dozens of comparable universities around the country including Weslayan, Swarthmore, Tufts and Oberlin where it is now possible to minor and even major (in some cases) in Peace and Conflict Studies.

Hanna Mahon ‘13.5, began the campaign on the heels of an inspiring lecture in late September by peace activist, teacher, and journalist Colman McCarthy by starting a PACS club, which has recently been approved by SGA.

Peace activist, journalist, and teacher Colman McCarthy who spoke at Middlebury in September has inspired Midd students to try to start a Peace and Conflict Studies Program.

Among many memorable McCarthy quotes is:

“If peace is what every government says it seeks, and peace is the yearning of every heart, why aren’t we studying it and teaching it in schools?”

McCarthy’s mission has been to create peace studies programs  in elementary through university level curriculum throughout the country. He himself teaches Peace and Conflict Studies classes at Washington DC public high schools and universities such as Georgetown.

The PACS club defines Peace and Conflict Studies in their draft proposal as:

“A study of the conditions under which peace and conflict are cultivated and the study of how conflict can be transformed into peace.”

The Program would be interdisciplinary with a required intro class, resembling Middlebury’s International Studies Department. Mahon and the PACS club have identified several courses in the Political Science, History, Education Studies, Sociology, Religion, Economics and Philosophy departments, to name a few, that could constitute the program.

Mahon says:

“At Middlebury we have this focus on global awareness: we have a really developed language program, really solid International Studies, and Environmental Studies, and International Politcs, and we also have many interesting courses on social justice. The purpose of the [PACS] group and the possible department would be to bridge the gap between the PoliSci conflict analysis side of things  with the social justice, non-violent, peace studies side of things.”

There has been a lot of interest among students, faculty and administration who see space for it at Midd. But like any endeavor of this nature, it will take time to get established. Mahon and the PACS club are hoping to start with a single course to gauge interest and then from there create a minor and hopefully at some point a major.

In the meantime, PACS club meets every Thursday at 8 in the Hepburn Seminar Room to discuss the meaning of peace (is it the presence of something or the absence of something?), work on getting speakers and continue pushing for a department at Middlebury. Education Studies professor Jonathan Miller-Lane is the adviser.

Are you interested in the idea of a Peace and Conflict Studies Program? If so the PACS club meetings are open to anyone, and Hanna Mahon can be contacted at hmahon@middlebury.edu.

Feel free to comment with your thoughts on a PACS program at Midd. Good idea? Too impractical? Would you consider it as your major or minor if it was offered?

By the way, my name is Luke Whelan ‘13.5. I’m new to Middblog but my bio should be up soon.



2 thoughts on “A Peace and Conflict Studies major at Midd?

  1. Hanna, Luke, others: This would a great liberal arts interdisciplinary course of study. Can the Monterey Institute’s James Martin Center for Non-proliferation studies (see: http://www.miis.edu/academics/researchcenters/nonproliferation ), which just launched a new terrorism and nonproliferation M.A. degree somehow add to the depth of offerings?

    I know terrorism sounds antithetical to “peace” but nonproliferation is one of the most important things to understand and pursue in order to advance peace in these times (North Korea, the Middle East, India-Pakistan, to name just a few examples) and so I wonder if Monterey’s Center, so well known for its excellent program, could be included in any planning; it would sure add to what is available here on campus.

    • Thank you for your comment Chris, and sorry for the late response.

      I agree, taking advantage of Monterey’s resources could be essential in getting a PAC’s program at Middlebury. Maybe we could even get some of their professors visit at Midd for a period to teach classes. I know Hanna talked with Pushpa Iyer, a professor in Monterrey’s conflict resolution program, when she spoke at RAJ in mid-october, but I’m not sure if the PACS club has been in contact with or is aware of their non-proliferation program. I will be sure to bring it up with Hanna so it gets discussed at the next PACS meeting.

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