Peace Studies

Department Chair: Kelly Kraemer

Faculty: Jeffrey Anderson, Kelly Kraemer, Rene McGraw OSB, Ronald Pagnucco

Peace Studies is a field of study that explores the presence and nature of conflict in human interaction, the causes of war and intergroup violence, and the conditions for sustainable peace with justice. Scholars in peace studies examine these subjects using an interdisciplinary approach that includes knowledge and methods drawn from many fields, including sociology, international relations, philosophy, biology, theology, political science and many others.  Throughout our program students and faculty explore the potential for social justice, better conflict management, peacemaking processes, reconciliation and peace building given the present historical circumstances. Specific approaches that are investigated include but are not limited to: nonviolent social protest; human rights; environmental action; feminism and anti-racism; Catholic social teaching; alternative approaches to security; international law and organization; and mediation and conflict resolution.

The peace studies program strives to enable students to think and act with responsible human freedom and to be capable of effective service to others.  Inside and outside of the classroom the peace studies department seeks to cultivate an environment for learning which draws its deepest inspiration from a desire for the truth, for justice and for charity. Our commitment to community-based education is evidenced by the internships and service learning activities that peace studies majors and minors undertake.

Practitioners in the field of peace studies are aware that any concrete situation reflects multiple issues. Effective peacemaking and conflict resolution thus requires an ability to synthesize the strands involved in the conflict, including gender and ethnicity, economics and environment, religion and philosophy, culture and government, history and literature, psychology and social structure. The interdisciplinary character of our program teaches students to integrate these strands. Building upon the six required courses, the student majoring in peace studies, in close consultation with the department, focuses his/her interest by looking at conflict and its resolution through detailed study in the social sciences, the humanities or the natural sciences.


The Peace Studies Department annually assesses student learning in the major. Current measures of assessment include: a portfolio of written work, a student self-evaluation of their experience in the major, site supervisors’ evaluations of internship performance, a meeting with majors in the spring of their senior year, and a survey of graduates conducted on a periodic basis.


Basic Requirements (24-28 Credits)
PCST 111, 221, 333 or 343, 346, 397, 399, and either ENVR 175 or ENVR 275 (except for those in the Natural Sciences Concentration).

Special Requirements for the Major
Each peace studies major selects a concentration in the Humanities or in the Natural Sciences or in the Social Sciences.

Humanities Concentration (24 additional credits)
The humanities concentration will include six PCST humanities courses, chosen by the peace studies major to fit her/his particular focus. The selection will need the approval of the student's advisor and the department chair. Students with a humanities concentration will take PCST 333 or PCST 343 (whichever was not taken for the basic requirements). Five of these courses must be upper division.

Natural Sciences Concentration (34-56 additional credits)
A major or minor in biology, chemistry, computer science, mathematics, physics or nutrition; one PCST humanities course chosen in consultation with the student's advisor; one PCST social science course, also chosen in consultation with the student's advisor.

Social Science Concentration (24 additional credits)
Six PCST courses chosen in consultation with the student's advisor, in order to fit her/his particular focus within the department. Five of these courses must be upper division.


Required courses
PCST 111, 221, 346, 399; one of the following: PCST 333 or PCST 343; one additional 300-level PCST course.

Acceptance into Upper Division

At the time that the peace studies major applies for official acceptance into the department, ordinarily at the beginning of the second semester of his/her sophomore year, the student will prepare a focus statement, which will contain two basic elements: 1) what has drawn the student towards a peace studies major; 2) the particular area of interest which the student would like to choose as the organizing theme of her/his course work in peace studies.

A successful major in peace studies must have a tightly focused concentration in order to insure her/his preparation for graduate school or the work world. The major in peace studies requires a great deal of contact between the peace studies student and the peace studies advisor in order to insure a focused program of studies.

Each student must receive approval from her/his advisor for any courses within the concentration which will count towards the major. The department chair will sign off on the list of courses.

Courses (PCST)

111 Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies. (4)
Examination of the field of conflict (e.g., between individuals, groups and societies, within and between nations), the relationship of the roots of conflict to social concepts of gender, and the resolution of conflict through such methods as direct action, mediation, arbitration, removal of the sources of conflict through economic, social and political development. Study of examples in historical context. Fall and spring.

221  Theory and Practice of Nonviolence.
This course will examine the history, theory, and practice of nonviolence, focusing on the power and limits of nonviolent direct action as a force for social change.  We will explore the historical and philosophical roots of nonviolence, compare case studies of historical and contemporary unarmed struggles, study some of the practical skills necessary for disciplined nonviolent action, and identify some important critiques of nonviolence.

271 Individual Learning Project. (1-4)
Supervised reading or research at the lower-division level. Permission of department chair required. Consult department for applicability towards major requirements. Not available to first-year students.

333 Theologies of Violence/Nonviolence. (4)
This course will examine perspectives on violence and nonviolence as these appear in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, in the history of Christianity, in Christian encounters with other world faiths, and in contemporary theological ethics. We will place special emphasis on the diversity of theological positions on violence: thoughtful people of faith have espoused a wide range of positions, ranging from absolute pacifism to just war theory to the celebration of “redemptive violence.” We will seek to understand each of these positions from the inside, as well as subjecting each to critical scrutiny. Students will have the opportunity to do “service learning” in an organization related to violence and nonviolence.

343 Philosophies of Violence/Nonviolence. (4)
This course looks at the way that the search for security and the claim to possession of absolute truth can lead to violence. The way of thinking involved in technology easily structures the world so that whatever does not fit into that framework is discounted and ignored and treated violently, as the philosopher Martin Heidegger shows. How does such an attitude lead to violence? Finally, the course will look at the nonviolent ethical response which the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas demands from the person who hears the call of the poor and the oppressed when they cry out against their oppression and poverty.

345 Topics in Philosophy and Conflict Studies. (4)
Literature of both Western and Non-western traditions—not only for philosophy but epic, fiction, poetry, drama, narrative, memoirs—ranging from the classical period into the 21st century, presents us not only warring individuals and political entities, but with worlds in conflict. This course will look at issues of conflict and draw from the readings an understanding of the world opened up by the texts. Questions to be explored may include: How does the vision of the world drawn from text and language touch the way people respond in conflict? How does a study of the philosophy of language and critical theory help us to understand what conflict is and how it works? Alternate years in Fall.

346 Mediation and Conflict Resolution. (4)
This course examines the nature of human conflict and the avenues for managing and resolving conflict nonviolently. It develops skills in conflict assessment, negotiation, and mediation. Intervention in disputes at the group, organizational, family and other levels are examined and practiced. The role of gender is given special emphasis. The theory and methods of nonviolent direct action against an opponent are studied.

347 Human Rights. (4)
This course will examine the history and development of international human rights concepts, organizations and institutions. The full range of human rights will be explored, including civil, political, economic and social rights as well as the right to development and a healthy environment. Topics such as the relationship between human rights and culture, women’s issues, religion and globalization will also be discussed. Case studies will be used to examine the efforts of governments, nongovernmental organizations (such as Amnesty International) and the international community to implement and protect human rights.

348 Social Change. (4)
How do social movements emerge and develop? How are they organized? What are the different strategies and tactics groups use for social change? Why are some social movements successful, while others fail to have an impact? This course will attempt to answer these and other key questions about social movements and social change by examining selected social movements in the U.S. and other countries. The course will also explore the globalization of social movements.

349 International Law and International Organization. (4)
This course will examine the historical and current development of international law and the emergence of different forms of international organization. There will be a special emphasis on the post-WW II period when there was a virtual revolution in international law, as reflected in the Nuremberg trial, Geneva conventions, the end of colonialism, and the international declaration on human rights. Case studies will be the mode of access into the relationship between international law and international organizations such as the United Nations, the special legal status of Berlin, the World Health Organization and trade/monetary regimes.

351 Women, Men, and Peace. (4)
This course will explore the connections between gender and peace in theory and practice, with a special focus on the traditions of women’s peace activism. We will study theories relating gendered notions of human nature to violence and peace, to militarism (and other forms of institutionalized violence) and to violence against women. We will also examine the relationships between motherhood, fatherhood, and peace, along with theoretical and practical connections between feminism and nonviolence. Finally, we will explore the reasons for women-only and women-centered peace groups and movements; the history of women’s peace movements in the U.S. and around the world; and the links between women’s peace movements, women’s rights movements, and other movements for social justice.

352 Race, Ethnicity, and Justice. (4)
This course will examine race as a source of conflict and violence, nonviolent approaches to the transformation of race conflicts, and the meanings of justice and peace in racialized societies. We will study the process of racialization, race formations, racism and its effects, white supremacy and white privilege, and anti-racist movements. We will use a variety of theoretical approaches, such as critical race theory, post-colonial theory, and multiculturalism, to analyze historical and contemporary race conflicts and race relations.

353 Peace Studies Science Symposium. (4)
Investigation of scientific/technical aspects of some major technologies used in modern warfare and their potential environmental impact. Examination of selected technologies used in the enhancement of world peace. Selection of topics depends on the interests/background of students and instructors. Prerequisite: five courses in a natural science or mathematics sequence.

354 Global Environmental Politics. (4)
Explores the nature of the environment as an international political issue. Specifically, topics to be covered include: transnational environmental movements, North-South issues, restrictions on national sovereignty, the environmental impacts of international monetary and trade organizations, and the effectiveness of global conferences. Alternate years.

368 Special Topics. (4)
Offered by faculty members in areas of their special interest. Offered as schedule allows.

371 Individual Learning Project. (1-4)
Supervised reading or research at the upper-division level. Projects are understood to be part of a student's concentration area work. Permission of department chair and completion and/or concurrent registration of 12 credits within the department required. Not available to first-year students.

397 Internship. (4-8)
Each peace studies major and minor is required to spend a minimum of 320 hours in a placement relating to conflict. All student proposals for internships will meet the criteria established by the peace studies program and will demonstrate the relationship of the proposed internship to the purposes of the program. Ordinarily, the internship will precede PCST 399.

398 Honors Senior Essay, Research, or Creative Project. (4)
Required for graduation with "Distinction in Peace Studies." Prerequisite: HONR 396 and approval of the department chair and director of the Honors Thesis program. For further information see HONR 398.

399 Peace Studies Capstone. (4)
Senior peace studies majors and minors will examine a topic drawn from current research on violence/nonviolence with a view to integrating their four year experience. Topics will be determined by the background and the expertise of faculty. Spring.