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University to host peace conference

Liz O'Donnell | Friday, April 3, 2009

More than 100 students from universities around the country will be at Notre Dame this weekend for the University’s annual Student Peace Conference.

“It is a way to bring students together,” said Erin Richardson, conference co-chair. “They can share their research about peace-related issues.

Along with these students from other universities, Notre Dame faculty members and students are also expected to attend.

“There will be people from all over the world at the conference,” Richardson said.

The theme of this year’s Peace Conference, as selected by the students who planned it, will be “Perspectives on Peace.”

Richardson said they chose this theme because it encompasses a wide variety of topics.

“This broad of a theme allows for several different issues to be discussed,” Richardson said. “Some of these will be institutional views and others will be personal experiences.”

The conference will begin on Friday evening with a dinner followed by a keynote address from Lisa Schirch, a professor at Eastern Mennonite University.

Saturday, the conference will switch gears and include a variety of panel discussions on peace-related topics.

“We chose broad topics for this year’s event,” said Andrew Masak, who is co-chair along with Richardson. “Much of what will be discussed focuses on peoples’ personal experiences with conflict and violence.”

Masak said the conference has been entirely planned by Notre Dame undergrads majoring in Peace Studies.

“There were 10 students who helped put the conference together,” Masak said. “We were advised by one graduate student and had a little administrative help from members of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.”

The students began planning the conference in the fall, but the majority of their work was during this semester.

“The Kroc Institute e-mailed other universities to invite students to submit their proposals on peace-related topics,” Richardson said. “We spent a day going through them, then selected the ones we wanted to appear at the conference.”

The students whose proposals have been selected will be panelists in the discussions, which will take place throughout the day Saturday.

Among the topics chosen for conversation include education and media, culture, memory and religion and global systems.

“It will be sort of like an interactive workshop,” Masak said. “The panelists will talk about their research, then have a question and answer session.”

Masak said he hopes for a wide variety of conversation in relation to the chosen topics.

“We have students speaking who have gone to other countries where peace-related issues are important, as well as students who have done research only at the library,” Masak said. “We want to embrace all different aspects.”

The moderators for these panels are graduate students at Notre Dame in the process of earning a degree in Peace Studies.

The Student Peace Conference is an annual conference that has been taking place for more than 20 years. It has always been completely student-run, with organizers undertaking tasks that run the gamut.

“We had to do everything from choosing other undergrads to appear as panelists, to budgeting the event, to choosing the keynote speaker,” Richardson said.

Richardson and Masak both said they are hoping this event will bring awareness and discussion related to peace.

“This is a great chance for dialogue,” Masak said. “It’s a great chance to see what other students are doing.”

The conference will wrap up at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon after a final speaker addresses the group.

The University of Notre Dame Undergraduate Peace Conference is sponsored by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.