From local crime wars to the civil conflict in Syria and the related refugee crisis, violence is prevalent in our world. This abundance of conflict means the establishment of the University of the Fraser Valley’s new Peace and Conflict Studies Teaching Chair is relevant and timely.
Dr. Steven Schroeder, a faculty member in the UFV History department, has been appointed to this new position for a one-year term.
In his role as teaching chair, Schroeder will further develop and build the Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) program, establishing a five-year plan and teaching undergraduate courses in this field. He will mentor and provide research and experiential learning opportunities for students while developing collaborative relationships and networks with community partners.
The study of peace and conflict is a research-based, interdisciplinary field focusing on practical application in peace-building work. This area of study is well-recognized with over 400 programs in colleges and universities throughout the world.
Schroeder will work closely with the Associate Vice President, Research, Engagement, and Graduate Studies, along with the Dean of Arts, a university advisory committee, and a community advisory committee. He will also collaborate with faculty across disciplines in order to develop and support the work of PACS within the university.
This academic year, UFV will offer three new PACS courses and a Bachelor of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies is anticipated in the future. This degree will be an interdisciplinary and applied program focusing on conflict transformation in the Fraser Valley and beyond.
In addition to analyzing conflict and peace strategies in the classroom, PACS students will acquire practical skills and hands-on experience in conflict transformation and reconciliatory work that promotes equality, justice, and equitable access to and ownership of resources.
“We need to address proactively the widespread violence in language, cultural clashes, structural injustices and war in our world today,” says Schroeder. “The Peace and Conflict Studies program will expand students’ knowledge of current conflicts, challenge them to think critically, and develop their peace-building skills. The result of this work will be evident in student-led applied projects that will benefit our communities.
“Violence is exhibited in many ways in our world today, most obviously in war,” Schroeder notes. “However, violence is also inherent in our communication, in social conditions, in resource management, and many other forms in human relationships. Education that includes the development of intellectual resources and practical skills is required to address the complex problems of our day, and to equip students with effective peace-building abilities. The Peace and Conflict Studies program aspires to accomplish these goals, and to prepare students for local and international conflict transformation work.”
Schroeder earned his PhD in modern European history from the University of Notre Dame, has taught history courses at UFV since 2006, and has served as coordinator of the UFV Mennonite Studies program. His research focuses on the root causes of oppression and conflict, and the attempts to establish durable peace in the aftermath of violence and war.
In 2012, Schroeder drafted a concept paper proposing the PACS program, and he began work as chair of the Peace and Conflict Studies working group, which completed the PACS program proposal last year. Schroeder is a founding board member of the Canadian Association for Peace and Conflict Studies, and a member of the Peace and Justice Studies Association. Last year, he taught Conflict Analysis and Peacebuilding in the Fraser Valley, the first peace and conflict studies course offered by UFV.
“UFV’s Peace and Conflict Studies program begins with self-examination; it is culturally responsive, and it recognizes the multiple layers of privilege in our society. The program focuses on the need for ongoing reconciliatory work among, and between, the respective communities in the Fraser Valley region, particularly between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples,” says Schroeder.
UFV’s PACS teaching chair has received financial support from a network of community donors working in cooperation with UFV’s Advancement office. Support has been received from foundations, diverse ethnic community leaders, faith groups, and from the net proceeds of a peace-focused event with astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield. Several gifts are five-year commitments, including one from the Oikodome Foundation, whose significant financial commitment to peace-building has encouraged others to give and pledge similarly.