Coordinator Reflection- Becca Creath
Even after having lived and moved through the MU Peace Studies Program during my undergraduate education and consequently knowing full well how busy and full life can be here, I still find myself amazed and overwhelmed with all that has happened and all this community has created together this year. We’ve travelled to Boston, Georgia, and Haiti. We’ve hosted guest speakers, travelled to hear speakers, and have heard from speakers among us. We’ve been active on campus—whether it was displaying a model drone, putting crosses on the mall by dark of night, registering students to vote, or standing up to rape culture on campus. Yes, my friends, it’s been a full and glorious year.
My favorite part of the year by far has been seeing the community grow and develop. We began the year with a strong group of first years who were more than willing to jump in and participate. It was so much fun to see everyone take a turn at engaging students in conversation when the model drone was on campus, gathering in the Lounge to fold paper cranes for Homecoming, crowding together for movie night, or taking a role in Kenapoc planning meetings.
Moving into the new Academic Center has been bittersweet. It certainly seemed at the beginning of the year that no place would have as much character as the old Lounge, but in many ways the move has highlighted for me the many ways this community comes together. My workspace sits in a corner of the new Lounge and not a day has gone by without someone stopping by to chat about campus happenings or ideas for Peace Studies. The creative energy in this space is truly life giving and has made it possible to plan what has turned out to be a great year.
We did quite a lot of travelling this year, to places both near and far. One of our first trips of the year was to Fort Wayne to hear Aung San Suu Kyi speak. It was a powerful experience to see her on her first trip to the United States in over 40 years. We also went to Boston for the annual Peace and Justice Studies Associate Conference. This conference is a great way to introduce students to the work of academics in the field of Peace Studies and to meet other students from around the country. Over the course of the year we also made it to the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame to see two speakers, Srjda Popovic and Erica Chenoweth. Popovic is one of the founders of the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), an organization that trains activists in nonviolent strategies and tactics, and Chenoweth is an Assistant Professor at the Joseph Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver who has done research on why nonviolent civil resistance works. It was wonderful to hear from so many people who have done great work in our world.
We also went on our annual trip to the School of Americas Watch (SOAW) rally and vigil in Columbus, GA. We had a student-staff-faculty group of seventeen to witness and protest at the gates of Ft. Benning. Our group left Thursday so that we would have a chance to attend the workshops and trainings on Friday. On Saturday, we enjoyed the festive rally and represented Manchester University with a table and information about our Peace Studies Program. It was wonderful meeting students from around the country and hearing what each group was working on. We stayed Sunday for the funeral march which remembered those who had fallen victim to the SOA, then headed back to Manchester.
As if all of that travel wasn’t enough, I was able to accompany Katy Gray Brown and six students on a January term class that went to Haiti. While there, we learned some of the history of Haiti (and how closely connected it is with U.S. history), about the UN presence, about the earthquake, about human rights work and sustainable community development, and assisted with a work project digging foundation holes for a new building. We also learned a little Kreyòl along the way! The trip was incredible due in large part to the wonderful people we met along the way. We were graciously hosted in homes while we stayed in Miami as we met folks from the Haitian diaspora and at St. Louis du Nord while we visited the New Covenant School. We were wonderfully taken care of by Ilexene and Kayla Alphonse while we stayed in the Church of the Brethren Guesthouse just outside Port au Prince and as we trekked across the country. It is difficult to pick a favorite or most powerful moment from the trip, but one I will treasure always is the way our group was able to build community as we worked and played alongside our Haitian friends.
It has been amazing to travel as much as I have this year, but equally wonderful has been all of the experiences on campus. This year is full of memories of discussion nights at Kenapoc, coffee and popcorn, and powerful displays of solidarity. As the year winds to a close, I can’t help but be deeply grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to be Peace Studies Coordinator for this past school year and look forward to what the position will bring next year.
Becca Creath is a 2012 graduate from Fort Wayne, IN. She will be continuing on as Peace Studies Coordinator again next year.