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Conference promotes peace discussions

| Thursday, March 27, 2014

StudentPeaceConference_WEBSteph Wulz

This weekend Notre Dame will host undergraduate and graduate peace studies students from around the world for research presentations and international peace building discussions at the 24th annual Notre Dame Student Peace Conference at the Hesburgh Center for International Studies.
The conference, titled “Building Peace: Integrating Two Decades of Progress,” is funded by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and organized by a committee of peace studies undergraduates. Conference co-chair Jimmy DeFrieze said the committee chose the theme due to its broad range of presentation topics for the post-Cold-War era.
“We started with the question, what have we learned about peace in the past two decades?” DeFrieze said. “Because it’s easy to look in a history book and find out what happened in World War II, but it’s a lot harder to integrate everything in recent years.”
DeFrieze said 200 participants registered for the conference and 40 presenters were selected from more than 100 submissions, representing a growth in interest in the conference in recent years.
“We’ve actually grown a little in status,” he said. “We were mostly recruiting from around the Midwest and the smaller region, but now we’ve grown to an international conference. We’re recruiting people from London, from Africa. We have better keynote speakers as well.”
Fellow co-chair Ana Dionne-Lanier said increasing numbers of participants have learned of the conference through social media and networking.
“We have an external contact list that we always use throughout the country to other peace studies programs, but even that’s growing to include even more programs that are outside peace studies,” she said.
The conference schedule features roundtable discussions, panel discussions, multimedia displays, a general session and a keynote address, as well as meals and receptions. Dionne-Lanier said the two roundtable discussions allow for more nuanced discussions about various topics in peace studies.
“They’re all papers that we went through this abstract process with, who we pulled out as people who had something very unique and interesting to say about peace studies and that really stood out and could stand alone,” Dionne-Lanier said. “We gave [the students] the opportunity to lead their own discussion. It’s going to be a more intimate session, so they can really talk about their research and get into it.”
According to the conference schedule, the panel discussions will concern a number of topics, from human trafficking to refugees to feminism in the field.
“The panel discussions came together really nicely because we looked at all the abstracts and looked at the different major themes in peace studies that we’ve identified and seen, and through that … were some things that came across throughout the abstracts,” Dionne-Lanier said. “They ended up coming together across these broader topics.”
Dionne-Lanier said the general session tonight, led by Kroc Associate director Anne Hayner, will allow attendees to network with others in the field.
“We’re bringing together all these people from all over the country and a few international students, so it gives them the extra opportunity to network with each other and to build this larger network of peace builders as we all move on in our careers,” Dionne-Lanier said.
On Saturday, Andrew Mack, director of the Human Security Report Project at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, will deliver the keynote address, “Understanding the Global Decline in Violence: Will it Last?”
According to his webpage, Mack has written or edited 60 books and published over 60 articles on politics and security.
“He’s a really big player in the field, and we’re very, very excited about him, especially because he’s an expert in what we’re trying to do,” DeFrieze said. “His presentation will be about the global decline in violence, and that’s obviously a major change since the Cold War.”
Registration for food and materials is closed, but Dionne-Lanier said anyone is welcome to attend the presentations and discussions.

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Emily McConville is a news writer and photographer for the Observer. She is a senior studying history and Italian with a minor in journalism. She is from Louisville, KY and lives off-campus.

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