SPCS Newsletter Issue 2 - October 2022
The UN General Assembly declared September 21st as an annual “International Day of Peace,” and the theme this year was “End Racism, Build Peace”. As part of our celebration of the International Day of Peace, the School of Peace and Conflict Studies and the Gerald H. Read Center for International and Intercultural Education jointly sponsored talks from Shampa Biswas and Vincent J. Intondi on the theme of “Race, Colonialism, and the Bomb”. The event took place against the backdrop of concerns about the potential for nuclear weapons to be used in Ukraine, and both speakers highlighted the dangers to the world inherent in the continued possession by the nuclear armed states of some 13,000 nuclear warheads - the vast majority held by Russia and the USA. The speakers also highlighted the everyday violence and exploitation in the existing global nuclear order, and the way it is disproportionately experienced by poor, Black, and indigenous communities in the USA, and by marginalized populations in the Global South. Finally, Vincent Intondi discussed the much-neglected role played by African Americans in campaigns against the bomb during the Cold War and through to the present day.
Shampa Biswas is an international relations theorist specializing in postcolonial theory and nuclear politics. She has written and taught extensively on nuclear non- proliferation and disarmament, global security, race in international relations, global development, nationalism, globalization, and gender, and South Asian politics. She is the author of Nuclear Desire: Power and the Postcolonial Nuclear Order (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) and numerous other publications. She is currently working on a project on nuclear memorialization and the global story of Fat Man (the bomb dropped on Nagasaki) that connects uranium mining in Belgian Congo; plutonium production in Hanford, WA; the Trinity atomic test in New Mexico; and the bombing of Nagasaki.
Vincent Intondi is a Professor of History and Director of the Institute for Race, Justice, and Civic Engagement at Montgomery College in Takoma Park, Maryland. From 2009-2017, Intondi was Director of Research for American University’s Nuclear Studies Institute in Washington, DC. Intondi regularly works with organizations exploring ways to include more diverse voices in the nuclear disarmament movement. His research focuses on the intersection of race and nuclear weapons. He is the author of the books, African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement (Stanford University Press, 2015) and Saving the World from Nuclear War: The June 12, 1982 Disarmament Rally and Beyond (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2023).
Summer 2022 Rwanda Study Abroad Trip
The ‘Rwanda After the Genocide Against the Tutsi’ program enabled eleven Kent State students to travel to Kigali, Rwanda for a two-week study trip. Students joined their peers from the University of Rwanda (UR) to learn about the reconciliation process following the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi. This process included attending events and sites dedicated to exploring this topic.
Over the course of the trip, students learned about the post-genocide reconciliation process in Rwanda. Study trip activities were based in Kigali, highlights included visits to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the Rwandan National Police, the Rwandan Development Board, and a civil society organization engaged in the ongoing efforts toward social cohesion and peacebuilding.
Other sites visited include the Akagera National Park (pictured), the Ministry of Unity and Civic Education, the UR Center for Conflict Management, ASPIRE Debate Rwanda (a non-profit that uses education on “debate programs as a tool of peace”). The visit concluded with a capstone conference, where each student presented their learning outcomes on a discipline-specific topic.
Plans for Rwanda Study Abroad Trip 2023
Another Rwanda trip is planned for July 2023. The program is projected to include three weeks of travel, offer six credit hours, and a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn firsthand about the reconciliation process alongside peers at the University of Rwanda and experts in peacebuilding policy, peace education, security, and post conflict governance.
Students will also have an opportunity to attend the Peace Education in an Era of Crisis conference. The conference will focus on bringing together educators, academics, policy makers and civil society to examine the principles, theories, praxis, and potential of contemporary peace education around the world. The conference will also include panels, interactive skills workshops for educators and practitioners, plus an opportunity to examine how the principles of peace education have been translated in one of the reconciliation villages established in Rwanda.
SPCS Course Included in Summer Advantage Program
The School of Peace and Conflict Studies offered a special section of Introduction to Conflict Management over the Summer 2022 term as part of the FLASHES STRONG Summer Advantage Program. The Program serves participants in the Upward Bound and Lebron James Family Foundation registered for the Fall term or referred by UB and LJFF. The aim of the program is to help integrate participants into the campus community and give them the support and resources needed to be successful after two years of learning in the pandemic-affected world. This summer’s SPCS course was taught by Sarah Schmidt, Director of Global Initiatives (Stark Campus) and part-time instructor for the School of Peace and Conflict Studies (Kent Campus).
The thirty-one students registered in the Program took seven credit hours of coursework comprised of the three-credit hour Introduction to Conflict Management course, as well as the three credit hour Media, Power & Culture, and a one-credit hour Success Coaching seminar. The Program was built based on the What Works Clearinghouse Report on Summer Bridge Programs, plus over 25 years of institutional experience and data in running transition programs.
FLASHES STRONG started with two days of community-building and assessment prior to beginning postsecondary coursework. Students moved into campus housing, took part in Parent & Family engagement activities, and toured campus.
The community-building activities provided students with opportunities to build relationships with their peers. The assessment activities focused on understanding student needs, both academically and socially.
Enrichment highlights included recreational activities and community building. Academic coaches accompanied students in their courses and worked with them to ensure success and offer support. Experienced residential mentors helped to develop the community building activities. The Program also coordinated with Kent State’s newly launched counseling area to aid participants in learning and building healthy social and emotional wellness tools. Students had access to individual and group experiences focused on managing anxiety, isolation, and other residual impacts from the pandemic. They also had the opportunity to work up to ten hours per week in an on-campus job.
FLASHES STRONG students were also asked to participate in Destination Kent State (DKS), a Student Success Program run by the Center for Undergraduate Excellence. The initiative, designed to ensure a meaningful welcome into the Kent State community, was built as a three- part system. This program, required for all entering freshman and transfer students, begins with providing students an Orientation experience where they meet with academic advisors, register for courses, and make connections with their “academic homes.” The second element of DKS is an invitation to the four-day KSU Kickoff, a celebration event introducing new Flashes to the Kent State community through a series of activities and events where they are encouraged to network with Faculty, Staff, and other KSU students and numerous organizations. The final piece of DKS is completion of the First Year Experience (FYE) course, which further supports students in their success by focusing on the same building blocks implemented in the summer program.
Upcoming Community Dialogue Workshop
Faculty Focus: Dr. Tatsushi Arai: Applied Peacebuilding Practice and Engaged Research
Dr. Tatsushi Arai, Associate Professor at Kent State University’s School of Peace and Conflict Studies, has continuously expanded his applied peacebuilding practice and engaged research in 2022.
Dr. Arai led a pioneering training session from February through March 2022 for intercommunal peacebuilding in Rakhine State, Burma. The training brought together a group of diverse youth representatives each from the Rohingya, Rakhine, and other minority communities.
From May 28th to June 4th, he served as the lead facilitator for the annual Brown University Strait Talk Symposium, an initiative for civil society peacemaking through Interactive Conflict Resolution dialogues across the Taiwan Strait he started in 2005.
Since early 2022, Dr. Arai has actively supported the successful formation of a high-level Burkinabe leadership team intent on establishing a new NGO, the Western Sahel Peace Initiative. He is currently working with the team to realize a KSU peacebuilding workshop for Burkinabe political and civil society leaders, anticipated to take place in early 2023.
Dr. Arai’s 2022 publications and policy papers include:
• Functional Coexistence in Intractable Conflict: A Decades-Long View of Conflict Intervention. Peace and Change 47: 1-34.
• A New Helsinki Process: Restoring Pragmatic Order in Europe. Transcend Media Service. June 20.
• General Principles of Conflict Resolution and Their Implications for the Security Crisis in Northern Burkina Faso. January. Dr. Arai’s presentations include:
• Building a Sustainable Platform of Coexistence and Reconciliation: Action Research in Northeastern Nigeria in the Aftermath of Boko Haram's Insurgency. Seminar sponsored by the Center for African Studies, KSU. March 10, 2022.
• Engaging Conflict History and Memory Across the Taiwan Strait: A Longitudinal Analysis of the Conflict Timelines from the Interactive Conflict Resolution (ICR) Dialogues in 2005-2021. Presentation at the North American Taiwan Studies Association (NATSA) Conference. Washington DC. March 31, 2022.
• Confronting an Enduring State of Conflict Nonresolution: International Webinars on Functional Coexistence, co-sponsored by SPCS-KSU and the National Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, the University of Otago, New Zealand. Participants included scholars, and government and civil society leaders from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. May 12 and May 19, 2022.
• Building a Peaceful Society Seminar, for twenty Burmese youth leaders brought together for a Yangon- based interfaith training program. May 5, 2022.
Queer Pandemic Exhibition Premieres in the UK!
The COVID-19 pandemic exacted a brutal physical and mental toll on the world’s population, including many people in the LGBTQ community, especially transgender individuals, who have experienced extreme loneliness and isolation.
Molly Merryman, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Kent State’s School of Peace and Conflict Studies and founding Director of the former Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, heard firsthand how the pandemic lockdowns in the United Kingdom had a profound impact on the LGBTQ community as part of a project titled Resilience During the Pandemic: LGBTQ+ Stories.
Molly, who is also Research Director of Queer Britain/Virtually Queer, led a team that gathered oral histories of LGBTQ residents in the UK and produced a video exhibit featured in the recently opened Queer Britain Museum in London and other venues in the UK.
Merryman and Lauren Vachon, Assistant Professor in Kent State’s LGBTQ Studies program and Coordinator of the LGBTQ Studies minor program, were instrumental in obtaining a $35,000 grant from the US Department of State that supported the project exhibition, traveling to four cities throughout the UK.
“We talked to LGBTQ people about their experiences related to the pandemic and how it was affecting their lives, with a specific interest in considerations related to their sexual orientation or gender identity and how it was impacting the community,” Merryman said: “Trans participants noted that it really impacted them not being able to get scheduled for transition because in those early days all medical things were shut down.”
Kent State Honors College graduate Moira Armstrong (they/them), who minored in LGBTQ Studies, and other Kent State students assisted Merryman and Vachon with the interviews, as did students at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Though the project was not based in the US, the work elevates the international profile of Kent State as well as the School of Peace and Conflict Studies, bringing them to the attention of the US State Department and the rest of the world. The research elevates LGBTQ Studies as well.
Since 2018, Merryman has been the Research Director for the Queer Britain Museum, a charity before it was built. The goal was to create the first national LGBTQ museum in the UK. She began to create an ongoing video-based oral history project called Virtually Queer.
In May 2020, Merryman planned to take a group of undergraduate students from Kent State to do a series of interviews in Belfast and Northern Ireland for the museum. Then the pandemic hit.
She reached out to Vachon and a colleague at Goldsmiths and they began oral interviews with LGBTQ people in fall 2020 via Zoom. Kent State students were trained to conduct comprehensive interviews like those Vachon uses in her undergraduate Research Methods class, Merryman said.
Molly and the team interviewed LGBTQ people throughout the UK, including Belfast, Northern Ireland and Wales. Resilience During the Pandemic: LGBTQ+ Stories was the first exhibition at the museum and will run from July 2022 until April 2023. The project was designed to be portable so it could be taken on trains or planes and featured interactive touchscreens to encourage engagement with the videos.
Lauren also created a side project called Viral Verses, a collection of poetry and excerpts of transcripts from the interviews.
The US Embassy in London was very impressed with the work and held an event at the US ambassador’s residence to “build relationships and further international ties.”
“They were interested and very excited to know that we have a School of Peace and Conflict Studies, and that May 4th isn’t just our past,” Molly Merryman said. “As an institution, we have preserved the legacy of nonviolent, peaceful change. And one of the ways that we have preserved that legacy is through the School of Peace and Conflict Studies.”
For more information on the Queer Pandemic project, contact Molly Merryman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Colombia Study Abroad Trip
Colombia recently ended one of history’s longest wars by negotiating the world’s most inclusive peace agreement, which addresses gender, race, and sexuality. These provisions were controversial, and Colombians voted against the first version of the accord. Students in this class will learn about the conflict, the peace process, and ongoing struggles to implement the accords and build reconciliation, with a focus on inclusive peace measures.
This class includes 5 days in the Amazon jungle in a region that was often controlled by the FARC guerillas during the war, including a stay in a village of former FARC combatants. Discussions will include a focus not only on reconciliation between people, but also with nature, which suffered serious harms from the conflict. This course is a collaboration with the Universidad del Rosario (UR), and the ten days in Colombia will be undertaken with Colombian students of UR. The trip will be spear-headed by SPCS Assistant Professor Sara Koopman, and Director of Global Initiatives (Stark), and part-time SPCS instructor Sarah Schmidt.
Faculty Focus: Dr. Ashley Nickels: Promoting Democracy Locally and Nationally
Dr. Nickels spent the 2021/22 academic year at the Ash Center for Democracy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, serving as a Democracy Fellow and conducting research on power, democracy, and community development systems.
In addition to her time in Cambridge, Dr. Nickels co-organized Race and Democracy in Northeast Ohio, a year-long series of programming focused on examining the histories, politics, and impacts of anti-Black and anti-Asian racism in northeast Ohio.
In collaboration with Drs. Arki (Africana Studies) and Boyd- Swan (Economics), and with support from the School of Peace and Conflict Studies, the Center for Pan-African Culture, and Anti-Racism and Equity Institute, Dr. Nickels is currently working on a photovoice project, asking “What does ‘Race and Democracy’ look like”?
Queer Britain Recognized by UK’s Museums Association
The UK-based Museums Association (MA) has recognized Queer Britain museum in its annual “Museums Change Lives Awards,” announced at the MA annual conference in November 2022. The museum was a winner in the Small Museum category, and was recognized for its inaugural exhibition, which gives voice to LGBTQ+ people.
The School of Peace and Conflict Studies has a strong relationship with Queer Britain, given that Associate Professor Molly Merryman has been its Research Director since 2018, the year QB formed as a charity. The museum opened this year, including in its inaugural exhibition
“Queer Pandemic,” an oral-history video installation focused on COVID, which has involved Kent State University students since starting in 2020. PACS student Jeremy Ritch has contributed photographic expertise to the installation. LGBTQ Studies Coordinator Lauren Vachon, Goldsmiths, University of London Queer History MA convener Justin Bengry, and Kent State alum Moira Armstrong are primary members of the research team.
SPCS Colloquia Series
From October to December, the School of Peace and Conflict Studies, along with additional sponsors, hosted a series of talks dedicated to building peace.
• Germán Palacio: The Role of the Amazon Jungle in the Colombian Conflict – October 6th, 4pm
• Elaine Hsiao: From Conservation and Conflict to Environmental Peacebuilding for a More-Than-Human World – November 4th, 3pm
• Rivera Sun: Nonviolent Action Strategies – November 16th, 4pm
• Landon Hancock: Peacebuilding Accountability: The UNPBF and Community-Based Monitoring & Evaluation – December 1st, 4pm
• Max Adjei: Localized Peacebuilding Through the Use of Peace Infrastructure (I4Ps): Assessing the Role of Ghana’s National Peace Council (NPC) in the Management of Electoral Violence – December 8th, 4pm
SPCS and University of Rwanda Peace Conference Summer 2023
Past tragedies link Kent State University and the University of Rwanda in a distinct way. For Kent State, the May 4, 1970, shootings have become a permanent part of the university’s history and American history. In Rwanda, the country’s 1994 genocide against the Tutsi resulted in the slaughter of nearly one million people. Although on different scales, both violent events have shaped the cultures of each university and given each a unique perspective on the effects of violence on a community. Now, both the University of Rwanda and KSU’s School of Peace and Conflict Studies are drawing on their past to forge a path toward global peace.
The universities are sponsoring Peace Education in an Era of Crisis, an academic conference next summer on peace education and interactive skills workshop for educators and practitioners. The idea for the conference was the result of Kent State’s new collaboration with the University of Rwanda (UR). In May, Kent State’s Board of Trustees approved the university forming a non-profit corporation to be housed at the UR in Kigali, to serve as Kent State’s base of operations for recruitment throughout all of Africa. Kent State’s relationship with UR has been blossoming in myriad ways.
R. Neil Cooper, Ph.D., director of the School of Peace and Conflict Studies, said the peace conference was born out of work his school was conducting with UR’s Centre for Conflict Management, to create a dual master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at the two universities.
Cooper has been working with Aggee Shyaka Mugabe, director of UR’s Centre, who spent the summer at Kent State as a visiting scholar. Along with Amanda Johnson, Ph.D., director of Gerald H. Read Center for International and Intercultural Education within Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services, they developed the idea for the universities to host the international conference on peace education, which is scheduled to take place in Kigali from July 11 to 14.
The conference is being sponsored by UR’s Centre, Kent State’s School of Peace and Conflict Studies and the Read Center. The Aegis Trust, an international organization based in Rwanda that works to prevent genocide and mass atrocities worldwide, also has agreed to co- sponsor the conference.
Kent State’s School of Peace and Conflict Studies, formerly known as the Center for Peaceful Change, was created as the Center for Peaceful Change in 1971 in response to the May 4 shootings that resulted in the deaths of four students and the wounding of nine others by the Ohio National Guard during anti-war protests. UR’s Centre for Conflict Management was created in the aftermath of the genocide. Through its determination to recover from its genocide, Rwanda has embedded peace education throughout its national curriculum, which made Rwanda the perfect location for the conference, Cooper said.
“It’s an interesting model and an example of a country that has really tried to mainstream and adopt peace education,” he said.
Cooper said now more than ever the world needs education in peace and conflict management, making the conference even more important and relevant. Not only in the United States, where political discourse has escalated resulting in numerous acts of violence, but worldwide where the number of ongoing conflicts has reached elevated levels not seen since before the 1980s.
“Many of the metrics on peace and conflict are currently going in the wrong direction,” he said, “A greater awareness is needed to address questions of peace and conflict.” While the event is expected to attract a large international audience, Johnson said the goal is to keep the cost affordable for as many to attend as possible, knowing that travel from the U.S. will be costly.
SPCS Co-Sponsors Sport, Politics, Peace, and Development Webinar
The School of Peace and Conflict Studies recently co-sponsored a series of Zoom seminars on Sport, Politics, Peace, and Development. The seminars took place on November 28th and were designed to overlap with the early stages of the World Cup soccer tournament in Qatar. They took place the day before a group stage soccer match between the USA and Iran. The event was co-sponsored by the School of Peace and Conflict Studies, the School of Media and Journalism at KSU, the Gerald H. Read Center for International and Intercultural Education at KSU, and the Department of Peace Studies and International Development at Bradford University, UK. The event consisted of a series of three Zoom sessions throughout the day featuring speakers from universities in Canada, Ireland, Rwanda, the UK, and the USA, as well as a representative of FC Barcelona Foundation, the charitable arm of Barcelona soccer club.