Neil Cooper, PhD, the inaugural director of Kent State University’s recently established School of Peace and Conflict Studies, began his new role at the Kent Campus in April 2019. Previously he was the head of Peace Studies and International Development at the University of Bradford in the UK, where he oversaw the world’s largest academic center for Peace and Conflict Studies, including four undergraduate programs, eight graduate programs and a large cohort of PhD students.
Kent State’s School of Peace and Conflict Studies—formerly the Center for Applied Conflict Management and originally called the Center for Peaceful Change—was founded in 1971 as Kent State’s original “living memorial” to the four students killed on May 4, 1970.
“We live in times that are just as challenging as those the US and the world experienced in 1970,” Dr. Cooper says. “The aim of the school today, therefore, is to equip our students with the knowledge and skills to better understand and respond to those challenges, to provide expert advice to practitioners and to contribute to the public debate on how to make our communities—local, national and global—more secure and more harmonious, rather than less secure and more divided.”
We asked him for some facts about himself and his future vision.
Recent read: Middle England, by Jonathan Coe. Although the latest in a trilogy of books focused on the fictional lives of Benjamin Trotter, his family and friends, the characters are all essentially vehicles for Mr. Coe to explore how Britain ended up voting for Brexit. It is alternately funny, satirical and moving. It provides a far better socio-political analysis of a country that remains bitterly divided over the causes, meaning and consequences of Brexit than most academic textbooks.
Last place traveled for pleasure: London. It encompasses every food, race and religion under the sun. It’s a crazy melting pot that should not work, but mostly does—and my son happens to live there, too!
Advice to my younger self: Don’t accumulate so much useless crap that needs binning when you move house to Kent State.
Future for the field of peace and conflict studies: The field is at a moment of flux. The early years of the post-Cold War era produced a rich vein of theoretical, conceptual and policy innovation. However, we are now entering an era marked by a range of new and emerging challenges to domestic and international peace and security that call for new approaches and new ways of thinking and doing peace.
Sticky wickets: Climate change, the re-emergence of populism and identity politics, domestic and global inequality, the crisis of liberalism, the resurgence of the arms trade and the erosion of arms control, the information revolution, and the combined effects of technological developments in spheres such as robotics, computing, biology and nanotechnology.
Solutions: These challenges will require a concern with traditional mechanisms of mediation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding that are at the core of the field. However, they will also require engagement with a broader range of issues, such as the relationship between peace, conflict and development or the relationship between society, technology and security.
Challenge for KSU’s School of Peace and Conflict Studies: To maintain its strength in those core areas of research and teaching, while also embracing the new issues and agendas presented by a post-9/11, post-financial crash, post-Brexit and post-Trump world that is also facing an emergent climate crisis.
— April McClellan-Copeland
Learn more about the School of Peace and Conflict Studies at www.kent.edu/spcs.
Hear from Dr. Neil Cooper:
Campus Quote/News Flash | Cool Course | Peacemaker | Sign Up! | Design Innovation Hub Launches | LED Video Boards are Fan Favorites | Lacrosse Team Tallies Up "Firsts" | Coming Together to Help Newcomers | Noteworthy