Corrdinator Reflection- Zach Washington
When thinking of the year in peace studies I relate it to the very first thing that we were able to accomplish this year- work for peace, from our three words segment on Good Morning America. This has been the motto that I have tried to carry with me throughout the year to remind myself what we are trying to do here. The year has gone by faster than many of us could have ever imagined. We have been to Georgia, Tennessee, and Arkansas. We made it on a major morning news show, and we have even had teach-ins to educate students about the “Occupy” movement.
The year Started quite abruptly. We were barely a week into the school year and President Switzer approached up with the idea that the Peace Studies department should submit a video of our three words, our three words was a segment that Good Morning America does weekly. The significance was that this episode was to be the tenth year anniversary edition of 9/11. We had received this email from President Switzer on Saturday; we did not start working on the project until Monday. We wanted out theme to be peace related. We came up with about ten different ideas, but we decided to keep it simple, just “work for peace”. So here it is Tuesday and we need to make signs, get the word out of where and when we will be shooting this video, and find someone to shoot the video. We contacted Joel Waggy to film the clip. I hand painted the signs with my student assistant Katy Herder on Wednesday. We sent out an email on Wednesday to students and faculty about our plan. Then Thursday we were due to shoot the video, the only downside was rain. Of course North Manchester would give us rain the day we were to be outside filming. Luckily we were able to make the best of the situation and make it out “six” words adding in “rain or shine”. We made it on the show for that Saturday. This was just the first full week of classes.
There were a couple of great highlights for the month of October. We were able for the first time to take students to the Peace and Justice Studies Association academic conference. This was a great experience for about a dozen students to see what academics in the field of Peace Studies are working on. This past year (’11) it was held in Memphis, TN. Many of us had not even been to Memphis before, so this was quite the trip. The conference was made up of many breakout sessions which were geared to an array of different interests. On in particular that many students found interesting was the session from L.E.A.P. (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). Springing from this conference, students were able to get a L.E.A.P. speaker to campus this spring. While there in Memphis we were also able to get to the Civil Museum. October also brought speaker and professor at Georgetown to Manchester. Mark Lance, philosopher and social justice advocate, came to Manchester to talk about a conceptual framework for anarchy and to dispel the myth that is was pure chaos.
Just a few short weeks after out a busy October we made our annual trip to Columbus, Georgia to remember the School of the Americas. This was a unique experience for us this year; we were accompanied by the Guerrilla Journalism class. They were going to be there to document the weekend. I had for a long time questioned the reason that we at Manchester went year after year to this annual gathering of those concerned with social justice. I thought to myself how effective was this? With this question in my head I had talked to people who have been going longer than I have and they reinforced the idea that we go because it is a vigil a way to remember the people who are affected by those who go to the SOA. This really showed me that we need to keep going. We need to keep remembering those that have been affected by the graduates of the SOA.
Spring semester was a whirlwind just like the first. Starting in February we were able to bring international mediator Gershon Basking to campus. Baskin was involved in the prisoner exchange between Israel and Palestine in the fall of 2011. It was great to see a professional in the field talking about big things happening in the way of peace and justice.
In March we had the chance to travel to the Heifer International ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. We went to Heifer as our alternative spring break trip. The trip was part service and part educational. The ranch itself is a working ranch with all sorts of animals; cows, sheep, goats, and chickens. We were to help with ranch tasks. These tasks were usually divided into maintenance, gardening, and livestock. The learning portion as focused on team building and how to transfer the Heifer model to our own projects. The Heifer model is the idea that you cannot just give someone aid, but that there needs to be education and sustained involvement with the project site, project site that is imitated by those in the community that seek assistance from Heifer. There was also a focus on food and poverty. This was a great trip that involved about a handful of peace studies students, but also students who were outside the program. I really value the face that people from outside the program were able to join us on going to the ranch.
It feels like it was just yesterday when we were starting the year with our three words “work for peace.” That first week really encompasses the whole year, things were moving rapidly and we were getting things done. Being the coordinator this year and being able to work with so many great people has been a blessing. The students this year put in a lot of work to make the peace studies program great. Although I am leaving at the end of May, I know that Becca Creath (the next Peace Studies Coordinator) and the students who are still here will keep working for peace, rain or shine.