Peace Studies Senior Reflection
Erin Cartwright ‘11
Toward the end of my junior year of high school, I embarked on a tour of colleges and universities in northern Indiana and Illinois with my older sister, who was a sophomore at Valparaiso University at the time. Since we were going to be in the area, my dad suggested that we check out Manchester University. I didn’t know until I visited the campus, that Manchester had a Peace Studies program, much less the very first peace studies program in the world. Granted, before that visit, I had never heard of such a thing as an academic major in peace studies. At the time, I wanted to major in Environmental Studies, but had been interested in various issues of peace and social justice—poverty, hunger, climate change, etc.—for some time.
After that first visit in May 2006, Manchester moved to the top of my list of college prospects. This was largely to do with the existence of both the Peace Studies and Environmental Studies programs, as well as the warm and welcoming atmosphere I experienced during that visit. After I got my acceptance letter the next fall (as well as financial aid and all that jazz), it was a pretty easy decision to choose Manchester over the other schools to which I had been accepted. Again, the idea of studying peace and justice issues was the overwhelming selling point for me.
As stoked as I was to be a Peace Studies major when I arrived at Manchester in August 2007, looking back, I don’t think I really knew what that would entail. During my first year at Manchester, my eyes were opened wide by my experiences associated with the Peace Studies program. In particular, when I went to the School of Americas (SOA) protest that Fall, I remember feeling both delighted and shocked, at home and out of place, inspired and outraged by what I learned about and experienced during that very fun and very eye-opening (not to mention very sleep-deprived) weekend. Later that year, more of my naivety was striped away when activist John Prendergast came to campus to speak about the genocide occurring in Darfur, Sudan. As a part of the Darfur-related activities that week, I participated in a die-in (a form of protest in which participants lie on the ground and pretend to be dead, symbolizing victims of violence—in this case the victims of genocide in Darfur) to raise awareness among the student body.
During my four years, I have attended many more protests and gatherings, including: the SOA protest again in 2008, Greenfest in Chicago in 2009, a protest here at Manchester University in 2010 against the anti-immigration legislation in Arizona, and a protest in Washington D.C. against the US occupation of Iraq in January 2011, among others. In addition to John Prendergast, I have had the privilege of hearing other fantastic and noteworthy speakers over my four years as well, namely: journalist Paul Roberts, environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill, human rights activist Kathy Kelly, and hunger activist Frances Moore Lappé.
To supplement and to add to my classroom learning, Manchester University and the Peace Studies program has given me ample opportunities to delve into experiential learning. One such opportunity was an internship at the Loaves & Fishes Catholic Worker Community in Duluth, Minnesota during the summers of 2009 and 2010. In particular, the summer of 2009 was a defining summer for me, as I learned what it was like to live in an intentional community and to live in solidarity with the poor and marginalized. Among a long list of lessons learned, that summer I also learned how to dumpster dive and how to cook a ham.
More than the protests, the speakers, and the experiential learning opportunities, what I appreciate most about the Peace Studies program here at Manchester University is the community of students, faculty, and staff who are committed to actively promoting peace and justice on campus and in the world. This community—including, but not limited to the Kenapocomoco Coalition—has nurtured, guided, supported, challenged, and molded me throughout my time at MU. For this I am truly grateful.