The School of Peace and Conflict Studies Welcomes Director Neil Cooper

Kent State University has chosen a well-known international expert to lead the university’s new School of Peace and Conflict Studies within the College of Arts and Sciences, known for research, teaching, and applied practice of nonviolent conflict management. 

Neil Cooper, Ph.D., who is currently the head of Peace Studies and International Development at the University of Bradford in the U.K., will be joining Kent State as the inaugural director of the School of Peace and Conflict Studies. Dr. Cooper was also professor of International Relations and Security Studies at the University of Bradford. 


Dr. Cooper will begin his new position this spring at the recently established School of Peace and Conflict Studies, formerly the Center for Applied Conflict Management. The Center for Applied Conflict Management (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, when Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire during a student protest against the United States’ war in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.


Dr. Cooper said he is honored and delighted to have been selected to lead such a prestigious center of expertise in the field of peace and conflict research.
“The school has a rich history of academic work in this field and a teaching program that is internationally respected,” Dr. Cooper said. “I am very aware that I will be building on a legacy created by other colleagues, in particular the previous director, Pat Coy, who has done so much to make the school one of the leading places for research and teaching on peace and conflict.”


Kent State President Beverly J. Warren believes Dr. Cooper’s leadership should elevate the school’s message to make a real and exponential difference. 


“This is an opportunity to share the Kent State story as we elevate the importance of the peaceful resolution of conflict,” President Warren said.  “As we speak through the wound of the tragic shootings on our campus in 1970, we are committed to the necessary education and research that will support new commitments to peace and the prevention of violence in communities across the globe.” 


As Kent State builds toward the 50th commemoration of May 4 and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the school, Dr. Cooper said he is looking forward to working with colleagues on the next phase of the school’s history, which will include new appointments and new courses.


“Today, we live in times that are just as challenging as those the U.S. and the world experienced in 1970,” Dr. Cooper said. “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 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.”


Dr. Cooper’s hiring bridges two historic and storied programs in Peace and Conflict Studies. The University of Bradford established the world’s first doctoral degree in Peace Studies in 1973, the same year that Kent State established its undergraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies.


As Head of Peace Studies and International Development at the University of Bradford, Neil Cooper has had oversight over 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. Previously, Dr. Cooper served at the University of Bradford as an associate dean for research and knowledge transfer and also as director of the Rotary Peace Centre and Research Director of Peace Studies.


Dr. Cooper’s research interests include the political economy of civil conflicts and peacebuilding, the politics of resource regulation, and the arms trade and arms control. He has published more than 50 articles and chapters on aspects of war, peace and international relations. His co-authored book, War Economies in a Regional Context and his co-edited book, Whose Peace: Critical Perspectives on the Political Economy of Peacebuilding, are both well-cited and influential.  Dr. Cooper is currently leading the development of a new peer-reviewed journal to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2019 entitled Peace and Conflict Research. He previously served as the editor of the peer-reviewed journal International Peacekeeping.


Dr. Cooper earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of York, a postgraduate certificate in education from Goldsmiths College and a master’s and a Ph.D. from the University of Kent at Canterbury.


The Kent State School of Peace and Conflict Studies’ undergraduate program is one of the country’s oldest and largest, enrolling more than 1,000 students in its classes each year. Students learn applied skills in the constructive management of conflicts on the international, community, workplace and relationship levels.