It was great to have the opportunity to meet Eben Weitzman ’84 at the Peace and Justice Studies Association meetings at Tufts University during the fall 2012 semester. Prof. Weitzman was sharing information at the meetings about programs in conflict resolution at the University of Massachusetts, where he teaches.
He has kindly written a blog post about his Swarthmore experience and his career in conflict resolution studies:
My experience at Swarthmore provided the foundation for the directions my life has taken, especially my work in peace and conflict resolution. The combination of Swarthmore’s roots in the Quaker tradition of commitment to peace and justice on the one hand, and its dedication to intellectual rigor on the other, spoke to me, inspired me, and gave me the tools I would need.
When I went looking for a Ph.D. mentor, I came across the great social psychologist Morton Deutsch—one of the founders of the field of conflict resolution—at Columbia University. Mort would often say that he was looking for people with soft hearts and hard heads. I think this is about as important an idea as any for those of us in the conflict resolution business, and Swarthmore had already done a lot to help shape me in this direction. Why soft hearts and hard heads?
Soft Hearts: If you work with conflict, chances are you do it because you care about something enough to do challenging, sometimes painful work. That’s good. The world needs more people like you.
Hard Heads: Here’s the tricky part. It’s good to be a softie. It’s good to let your caring and your compassion drive your work. But: Once you settle on a problem, now you have to think carefully, clearly, deeply, and systematically about the problem you’re trying to solve.
You have to hold yourself to high standards.
You have to subject your work to rigorous test, whether it’s empirical research or practice in the field.
You have to be willing to accept answers you don’t like.
Because as much as the world needs more people who care, what the world needs even more is people who care, and who also have what it takes to do something about the things they care about. Swarthmore’s grounding in Quaker values, and its commitment to providing what I believe is one of the finest intellectual preparations you can find, is a perfect incubator for the soft-hearted, hard-headed people the world of peace and conflict resolution needs.
As a political science major at Swat with strong interests in psychology and philosophy as well, I had the opportunity to study political science with an eye on questions of justice, to learn about political philosophy, ethics, political psychology, cultural anthropology, and more. And as any Swat student knows, being surrounded by dedicated, committed, engaged, visionary fellow students was one of the most important parts of the whole experience. That’s one of the reasons both of my sons are studying there now.
I graduated from Swarthmore in 1984. Since then I’ve earned a Ph.D. in social psychology, and had the opportunity to work with labor unions and human rights NGOs, corporations and schools, hospitals, animal rescue networks, Federal disaster relief teams, and more. Right now I’m engaged with a project in Nigeria working on peace building between Christians and Muslims; a project here in Boston that provides dialogue channels between the federal law enforcement agencies and the local Muslim and Sikh communities; a group that uses the sport of Ultimate Frisbee (Go Earthworms and Warmothers!) to bring together Arab Israeli, Jewish Israeli, and Palestinian kids; a project to promote more effective teamwork in local hospitals; and a leadership development and strategic planning process with a local union.
The program is designed to provide students with the ability to understand, effectively manage, and intervene in conflict situations that arise among individuals and groups, locally and globally. Students explore the causes, dynamics, and consequences of conflict in a variety of settings; they learn techniques of conflict analysis and resolution, problem solving, and collaborative decision making; and develop skills in negotiation, mediation, dialogue and facilitation.
Within UMass Boston we are housed in the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, a dynamic environment that houses three academic departments as well as numerous centers and institutes. These provide opportunities for students to participate in research and field projects locally and globally. Conferences and lectureships allow students to network with outstanding scholars and practitioners from a variety of fields.
Students come to our programs from six continents and more than thirty countries, bringing a wide range of backgrounds and a rich diversity of experience. Some are midcareer, while others arrive directly from undergraduate degree programs.
We have 2 current Fulbrights studying with us from abroad, and 8 new Fulbright applicants for the Fall!
Alumni of our programs are doing exciting and important things in a variety of settings; examples include:
Direct mediation services
United Nations ; World Bank
Superior Court of the District of Columbia
Metro-West Community Mediation
Princeton and Cornell Universities
National Institutes of Health
American Red Cross
Business and Non-Profits
eBay and PayPal (online dispute resolution)
Human Resources, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
Mass General Hospital
Advocacy for Refugee & Immigrant Services for Empowerment
Ministry of Energy, Nigeria
Our beautiful campus on Boston Harbor offers our diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city.
I would love to hear from Swarthmore students looking for graduate study in conflict resolution, or even just curious to learn more about the field. Another good contact is our Associate Director, Roni Lipton roni.lipton (at) umb.edu
Please note that our deadline is fast approaching: it’s March 15!! If you are interested but may not be able to get things together by the deadline, please reach out to me directly and we’ll work with you.
Please also consider joining us in April for a 2-day symposium on Bridging Global Religious Divides, and consider submitting a paper for next October’s 10th Biennial Student Conference: “Conflict Studies: The Next Generation of Ideas.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Eben A. Weitzman, Ph.D.
eben.weitzman (at) umb.edu
Why did you choose to pursue a Doctoral degree in International Education?
After graduating from Swarthmore College, where I majored in religion and peace and conflict studies, I worked for a couple years on educational advocacy relating to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. During this time, I became particularly interested in the way that education can shape historical narratives, social identities, and political opinions. I decided that I wanted to contribute to knowledge and research on the subject, focusing on the role of education in situations of armed conflict: how conflict affects education and how education affects conflict, potentially serving to either mitigate and exacerbate it.
I look at how the humanitarian community is addressing the problem of attacks on education (violence, harassment, and threats against students, teachers, and schools in areas of armed conflict). More specifically, I focus on the work of humanitarian actors in the occupied Palestinian territory and the linkages between what is occurring there and global advocacy efforts.
Kapit-Spitalny, Amy and Burde, Dana (2011). Annex 1: Prioritizing the Agenda for Research for the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack: Why Evidence is Important, What We Know, and How to Learn More. In Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack. Report from the Knowledge Roundtable on Programmatic Measures in Prevention, Intervention and Response to Attacks on EducationNovember 8-11, 2011 Phuket, Thailand. New York, NY: GCPEA, pp. 29-46.
Burde, Dana, Kapit-Spitalny, Amy, Wahl, Rachel, and Guven, Ozen (2011). Education and Conflict Mitigation: What the Aid Workers Say. Washington, DC: USAID.
Guven, Ozen, Kapit-Spitalny, Amy, and Burde, Dana (contracted and submitted, 2011). The Education of Former Child Soldiers: Finding a Way Back to Civilian Identity. Education Above All.
Burde, Dana, Kapit-Spitalny, Amy, Wahl, Rachel, and Guven, Ozen (contracted and submitted, 2010). Education in Emergencies: A Literature Review of What Works, What Does Not, and Why. Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.
Miller-Idriss, Cynthia and Kapit, Amy (2009). Book Review: Promoting Conflict or Peace Through Identity by Nikki Slocum-Bradley (Ed.). Journal of Intercultural Studies, 30(4), pp. 431-433.
What are your career goals?
I want to work for an international humanitarian agency on issues relating to education in emergencies, using my knowledge and research experience to inform programming and advocacy.
Many thanks to Swarthmore’s News and Information Office for this piece that has appeared on the College’s webpage. Congratulations again to Elowyn Corby!
Elowyn Corby ’13 Wins Peace and Justice Studies Thesis Award
by Jenni Lu ’16
October 21, 2013
Elowyn Corby ’13 presented her winning thesis at the Peace and Justice Studies Association’s awards banquet this past weekend.
If you want to be heard, speak up. It’s a basic concept that has driven the progression of democracy, the rise of cohesive communities, and now, Elowyn Corby’s [’13] thesis research, which recently caught the attention of the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA).
Titled “Training for Change: Moving from Theory to Practice in Adult Education for Empowerment,” Corby’s thesis garnered her the association’s 2013 Undergraduate Student Thesis Award. Corby, a peace education and political science major with a minor in conflict studies from Santa Cruz, Calif., accepted the award and presented her work this past weekend at PJSA’s annual meeting in Waterloo, Ontario.
Participation supports both the individual and the collective, according to Corby. It allows for the formation of social trust and social connection between people and within a society, and prevents communities from becoming too insular and controlling. However, participation has always been unevenly distributed.
“What we see is certain people getting heard a lot, often because they tend to participate a lot,” she says. “The government listens to those who participate. My question was, how does education tie into this? We know we need democratic skills and participatory skills. How do we get there? Is that something that can be trained?”
Corby’s hope was to determine whether activism training could reduce the inequalities that typically arise out of the most common way people develop activism skills: in the workplace.
“The experience that you accrue in the workplace is very biased along racial and socioeconomic lines,” she explains. “So if you’re developing leadership experience in the workplace, it’s much more likely that you’re a white male from a privileged socioeconomic background than you’re a person of color, or a woman, from a working class background.”
For her research, Corby chose to focus on Training for Change, an activism training organization that she had been in contact with since her freshman year at Swarthmore. Using them as a case study, she conducted 278 surveys and seven long-form interviews over the span of a year and a half.
“Statistically, Training for Change does increase [participants’] democratic confidence and how much they can engage in issues they care about across the board,” Corby says. “They engage more frequently, they attend more meetings, they run more meetings.”
However, Corby also stumbled upon a second discovery. Not only did Training for Change equalize the participatory playing field, it did so by exponentially increasing activism skills among people of color.
“Training for Change is not only increasing democratic participatory skills,” she says, “but it’s also doing it in a way that disproportionately affects communities that are much more likely to be silenced by our current democratic system. So it’s combating larger social inequalities.”
Corby’s findings have solidified her staunch belief that anyone can become an activist, and hopes that her research can compel more people to consider the inequalities found in current activist participation in a new light. It’s just a matter of channeling your passion and honing your skills.
“I think one of the things that holds activism training back is that it’s not understood very well,” she says. “It’s not seen as something that’s actually viable for facilitating and catalyzing social change. So there’s a lot of need for activism training.”
Corby credits her advisers, Associate Professor of Educational Studies Diane Anderson and Associate Professor of Sociology Lee Smithey, with providing support and encouragement. “Lee in particular spent hours and hours with me going over the data and number crunching,” Corby says. “I feel strange taking credit for this because it was all of us.”
Elowyn Corby ’13 received the Undergraduate Thesis Award from the Peace and Justice Studies Association this weekend. Sa’ed Atshan ’05 was there in Waterloo, Ontario to congratulate her.
We also learned that last year’s Graduate Thesis Award went to a Swarthmore alum, Sara Koopman, who graduated in 1993. Prof. Joy Charlton was her adviser and she was a Sociology and Anthropology major.
Dr. Koopman won the award for her geography thesis, “Making Space for Peace: International Protective Accompaniment in Colombia (2007-2009)”
Dr. Koopman is a feminist political geographer who does collaborative research with international solidarity movements to support their efforts to decolonize the relationships between global North and South. Her work also speaks to dynamics in humanitarianism, development, and peacebuilding more generally.
She has written about the movement to close the US Army’s School of the Americas, the World Social Forum, and her most recent research is on international protective accompaniment, a strategy used in conflict zones which puts people who are less at risk literally next to people who are under threat because of their work for peace and justice. The paradox of accompaniment is that it uses global systems that make some lives ‘count’ more, to build a world where everyone ‘counts’. In doing so it can both reinforce and wear away systems of inequality.
Her postdoctoral research builds on her arguments for understanding some grassroots activism as altergeopolitics by asking what an alterbiopolitics might be, and how the two might work together to foster peace, rather than war. To do so she is creating a public digital archive of stories from conflict zones in Colombia shared by international accompaniers (often as calls for action to pressure states), and engaging in a collaborative analysis with both accompaniers and those accompanied as to what worked well in those stories, with the intention of focusing on best practices for sharing stories online from conflict zones for purposes of solidarity and peace building.
Making Space for Peace: International Protective Accompaniment. 2013. Invited chapter in Geographies of Peace, ed. Fiona McConnell, Nick Megoran, and Philippa Williams. (I. B. Tauris), forthcoming.
Alter-geopolitics: Other securities are happening. 2011. Geoforum 42:3 (June), 274-284.
Let’s take peace to pieces. 2011. Political Geography 30:4 (May), 193-194. (cited 3 times)
Cutting through Topologies: Crossing Lines at the School of the Americas. 2008. Antipode. 40:5, 825-847.
Imperialism Within: Can the Master’s Tools Bring Down Empire? / Imperialismo Adentro: Pueden las Herramientas del Amo Derribar el Imperio? 2008. Acme: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies. 7:2, 1-27. (cited 21 times)
A liberatory space? Rumors of rapes at the 5th World Social Forum, Porto Alegre, 2005. 2005. Special Issue of Journal of International Women’s Studies on Women and the World Social Forum, 8:3 (April), 149-163. (cited 7 times)
Bringing Torture Home: Women Shutting Down the School of the Americas. 2006. Field note in special issue on the Global and the Intimate. Women’s Studies Quarterly. 34: 1-2 (Spring/Summer) 90-93.
Congratulations to both Sara Koopman and Elowyn Corby for their continuing contributions to the field of Peace and Conflict Studies.
We would like to thank author Mary Walton for her lecture this afternoon on the courageous work of Swarthmore alums Alice Paul ’05 and Mabel Vernon ’06 in their organizing and nonviolent campaigns to secure the vote for women in the United States.
A standing-room only crowd of people from the Swarthmore community and the local community gathered in the Scheuer Room to celebrate the International Day of Peace, the College’s sesquicentennial, and 125 years since the first peace studies course in higher education was taught at Swarthmore. The audience expressed their appreciation for Ms. Walton’s presentation with extended applause.
We would like to thank all of our co-sponsors who made this event a success, including Peace Day Philly for including our event in the city-wide celebration of the International Day of Peace.
Sponsors: Peace and Conflict Studies, the President’s Office, Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Friends Historical Library, History Department, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Women’s Resource Center, Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, English Literature Department, and Political Science Department.
Peace Innovation Lab’s Nimesh Ghimire was adjudged one of the winners of a regional image competition organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – Bangkok.
Nimesh’s work (a photograph taken while on his way to our Lab in Lamjung) will be displayed – alongside other top submissions from the Asia-Pacific region – in the “Learning to Live Together” Asia-Pacific Exhibition, to be held in Bangkok, Thailand between 17-22 September at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.
We are thrilled to announce that Elowyn Corby, class of 2013, has been awarded the 2013 Undergraduate Student Thesis Award by the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA) for her honors thesis titled “Training for Change: Moving from Theory to Practice in Adult Education for Empowerment.”
The PJSA is a professional association for scholars, K-12 teachers, and grassroots activists in the field of peace, conflict, conflict resolution, and justice studies, and it is the North-American affiliate of the International Peace Research Association.
Elowyn was an honors student, who graduated with majors in Peace Education and Political Science and a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies.
Here is the abstract from her thesis:
This research examines the possibility of using adult activism training to facilitate the development of participatory skills. It considers the impacts and pedagogy of Training for Change, a social action training collective in Philadelphia. As well as surveying the major democratic theory on participation and the educational theory dealing with education for empowerment, the research includes a qualitative and quantitative analysis of Training for Change’s work. Based on a survey of past-participants, Training for Change tends to increase participatory skills among trainees, as well as identification with social change maker identities like ‘leader’ and ‘organizer’ and the frequency and intensity with which trainees participate in social change work. These effects were disproportionately pronounced among participants of color. This finding counteracts the effects of more traditional skill-development institutions such as the workplace or non-political organizations, which disproportionately increase participatory skills among the most privileged members of society. At the same time, people of color were slightly less likely to report that they felt the training was designed to be helpful for people like them, indicating that TFC has a complex relationship with questions of cultural relevance in the training space.
The award will be presented to Elowyn at the Awards Banquet during the association’s annual meeting October17-19, 2013. The meeting will be held in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and it will be hosted by Wilfrid Laurier University Department of Global Studies, Conrad Grebel University College, and the University of Waterloo Peace and Conflict Studies Program. Elowyn will have the opportunity to present her research at the conference.
We would like to offer our warmest congratulations to Elowyn. That her work was recognized as exemplary by a committee of peace scholars and educators is a testament to her hard and careful work.
Prof. Lee Smithey and Prof. Diane Anderson, who co-advised Elowyn’s thesis and submitted it to the competition, report that they are excited that Elowyn has been honored in this way and that the award is fitting, not just with regard to the final thesis but for the way Elowyn executed the research for more than a year.
After graduation, I left Swarthmore for Bombay, India. Shortly after, I started work at a Delhi-based start-up called Sankhya Partners.
The company is an investment, consulting and strategic advisory platform. They offer early-stage social enterprises business and financial advice, and, in some cases, proprietary growth capital. They also provide established firms a sustainable blueprint for their Corporate Social Responsibility programs. Sankhya Partners works with investors, entrepreneurs, companies, educational institutions, government and international organizations and individuals to enable change.
As an Associate and a Sankhya Fellow, I worked with clients on field research, and on putting together databases to expand the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practice. My work was centered around the unorganized labour sector. I worked on identifying and analyzing legislation that would help a social enterprise access funding for programs to up-skill workers. The training programs they run have already increased daily wages for labourers, and they hope to extend their programs for increasing financial inclusion and employability across India.
Recently, I left Sankhya Partners and have started working at Citibank. I’m assigned to the Corporate Affairs team, where I am focused on Citi’s Corporate Citizenship programs – primarily their work with women in rural communities who would not normally have the facility to save money. My responsibilities include communicating with the NGOs and entrepreneurs that Citi partners with to ensure that programs are running well. In addition, I am responsible for putting together their annual Corporate Citizenship Report for India.
In addition to working at Citibank, I am involved with an NGO called Know Your Vote. It’s a non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on raising civic awareness. So far, I’ve been working on our social media and outreach. Currently, we are working on setting up chapters in schools across Bombay, and preparing voter registration drives and other activities in preparation for the 2014 election.
As a senior I decided to take on the challenge of a double credit thesis to fulfill the requirements of my Peace and Conflict Studies honors minor. I chose to write my thesis on the evolution and intersection of the fields of Security Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies. This topic was the culmination of four years of seminars and individual inquiry. Completing this work, eventually titled “Separated at Birth: An Analysis of the Origins and Evolution of Peace and Conflict Studies and Security Studies,” was simultaneously the most draining and rewarding experience of my time at Swarthmore. My continued interest in the theories and applications of Peace and Conflict Studies led me to apply for my current position as a Program Assistant with the Quaker United Nations Office. This yearlong fellowship has so far been an amazing experience.
The Quaker United Nations Office represents the interests of Quakers worldwide at the United Nations. Much of QUNO’s work consists of facilitating informal, off the record dialogue among relevant stakeholders on the role of the UN in peacebuilding and prevention efforts. In addition to helping plan and execute these meetings, my role as a Program Assistant consists of monitoring developments in the work of the Peacebuilding Commission in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I also track developments in UN action in Iran and Iraq. My duties include attending relevant meetings at the U.N. as well as monitoring academic journals and news sources in order to gather information on the issues QUNO engages around. Another area of work I am engaged on is the Palestinian bid for an upgraded status at the UN. This work includes updating the Palestine Resource, an online database intended to be a source of information for activists engaged around the issue of Palestinian statehood, and attending meetings of the Israel-Palestine NGO working group. Finally, I work on QUNO’s engagement around the Post 2015 Development Agenda, the framework that will replace the MDGs upon their expiration.
My work with QUNO has reaffirmed my interest in the role of international organizations and international law. As a result I decided to apply for law school with the aim of completing a degree in international human rights law.