This major encourages students to think about and appreciate the dignity of all individuals and the rich diversity of the world, and to advocate for equity and justice while imagining a world without violence.
What brought you to Saint Anselm?
In 2007 I had just completed my Ph.D. and was living in Boston, and the former chair of the sociology department, Dennis MacDonald, reached out to me. He went to school in Wisconsin, where I’m from, and we hit it off. I also really connected with Dan Forbes ’81 and the work he was doing at the Meelia Center. And when I drove through campus, it felt like it was the right place, it felt like home.
How do you describe the peace and justice studies major?
It is an interdisciplinary major that bridges across the humanities and social sciences, and delves into helping students understand the structure and different types of justice. This major encourages students to think about and appreciate the dignity of all individuals and the rich diversity of the world, and to advocate for equity and justice while imagining a world without violence.
When a student first walks into your class, what are they surprised by?
The way I start my Intro to Peace and Justice Studies class is by talking about war and violence, and my students react with ‘Hey, I thought this was about peace and justice.’ We’ve never known a time without violence, and justice is the implementation of how can we move forward, how can we change, and how can we get somewhere else. It is important to critically assess how decisions are made and ask who gets to decide? How do we determine the victim? The accuser? What is our role as an individual? And how do structures perpetuate these inequalities?
How do you help students navigate all that?
We’re giving students the tools to critically assess these questions. We teach theoretical and practical knowledge, but also research methods about how knowledge becomes knowledge. One of the many important takeaways from this major is the conflict-resolution class taught by Criminal Justice Professor Peter Cordella—how do we deal with conflict in our lives? This is skills based; they learn mediation, dialogue and the different types of negotiation. Students love being able to take this skill with them when they graduate.
Is there a typical career path for peace and justice studies majors?
This is a major that gives students the ability to choose their own direction. They take a core of five Peace and Justice classes, but electives come from history, philosophy, theology, sociology, political science, economics, psychology, business, biology, chemistry, communication, criminal justice, and because of this we are very popular double-major. It works very well with a lot of things. My students also are required to participate in some type of experiential learning, and this inspires many graduates to participate in a year of service, work for a nonprofit or an NGO, or pursue a career in education or the law.
Why is experiential learning an important aspect of this major?
The idea is you can read about all of this, but until you really see it, do it, feel it, experience it—that’s where students learn the most, that’s where I’ve learned the most. Growing up, my mom was always very good at exposing me to other people’s experiences, and after college I was an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer in the New York City schools and also did a lot of international travel. I’ve found it’s by weaving in these real experiences that make the content come alive.
What might your students not know about you?
There are only two continents I have not been to: Antarctica and Australia. The only state I’ve never been to is Hawaii.