How Steinhardt Leaders Are Using Education To Promote Global Peace

The refugee crisis, terrorism, and political violence. These are just a few of the pressing issues undergraduate students explored in Steinhardt’s new Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) minor during the Fall semester.

To help undergraduate PACS students analyze global conflict and peace-building efforts, faculty recruited three International Education graduate students – Ashley Bertolini (MA ’17), Morissa McQuide (MA ’17), and Brittany Gray (MA ’17) – as “PACS Leaders” to direct hands-on sessions related to conflict analysis and management. We spoke with Ashley, Morissa, and Brittany to learn more about these classes and what drives them to use education to promote global peace.

Peace and Conflict Studies minor students with director Elisabeth King and advisor Jamie Remmers visiting the UN Security Council chamber.
Peace and Conflict Studies minor students with director Elisabeth King and advisor Jamie Remmers visiting the UN Security Council chamber.

What led you to take a leadership role in the PACS minor?

Ashley: During my time in the International Education program I became interested in what education looks like in conflict affected areas. I became a PACS Leader to broaden my interests, as well as to better understand where education in conflict and post-conflict affected areas fits into the larger political framework.

Morissa: I was very enthusiastic to learn about the role that education plays in conflict settings, and believed that taking on a leadership role in the PACS minor would allow me to explore different perspectives while working with the undergraduate students. Additionally, the opportunity to work with Professor Elisabeth King and help her in the Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies class presented a unique opportunity to learn more about the topic on a more granular level.

Brittany: Previous classes in the program relating to international development, education in emergencies, the politics of civil conflict, and more allowed me to explore the topic of peace and conflict in several different capacities. These classes and experiences led me to take on a leadership role in the PACS minor which has furthered my knowledge in the field.

Left to right: Morissa McQuide, Ashley Bertolini , Brittany Gray
Left to right: Morissa McQuide, Ashley Bertolini , Brittany Gray

What sessions did you lead, and what is the result of these sessions?

Ashley: I led a session called “Working in the Field of Peace and Conflict”. Through this session, students and I discussed traits that would make someone effective in the field, took the UN basic security in the field test that has to be completed to go on any UN sponsored mission, and examined the rhetoric and reality of aid work by studying job descriptions and images for humanitarian work. Everyone was very much involved in discussion and we talked a lot about the ways in which security measures can both help and hinder program implementation goals.

Morissa: I led a class which focused on conflict sensitive education – understanding education policy and programming’s role in conflict-affected areas and contexts – with the goal of helping undergraduate students grasp its importance. I reviewed the logistics of conflict sensitive education with the students and had them practice using INEE’s (Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies) toolkit, which contains several guides for humanitarian aid workers, government officials, and educators, to build their own education programs.

Brittany: As a PACS Leader, I led a session focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In groups, the students played an online game called “The PeaceMaker Game” which is inspired by real events in the region. As they played, students paid close attention to the political and geographical factors that influence conflict, peace building, and decision making. The students carefully deliberated over the actions they took during the game to try to strive for peace. The goal of this particular session was to experience “real-time” decisions in peacemaking, as well as reflect on the idea of games like these as valuable tools in peace building. After playing the game, we discussed their results, events that surprised or challenged them, and additional thoughts on the game itself.

Learn more about the Peace and Conflict Studies minor.