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MU Peace Studies Travels to PSJA COnference

Lauren Gady
Staff Writer

The Peace Studies trip to Boston included a myriad of exceptional individuals. Jonathan Ulerick, a bubbly articulate senior majoring in peace studies and philosophy with minor in German, expresses his feelings about how valuable conferences such as this are. “Getting to travel with the group and have conversations about peace studies issues as well as getting to go to another city and experience the atmosphere around the conference is so valuable,” says Ulerick, still beaming from the trip. 

“Often times we ultimately get caught up with the aspect of our schooling. It becomes about the homework, the assignments, and the grades, and we forget our education. As Mark Twain said we shouldn’t let schooling get in the way of our education. PJSA, as a 5-day event, is one way to have an education and not let school get in the way,” Ulerick said.   

Rebecca Creath, Peace Studies Coordinator at Manchester University, speaks about the incredible closeness that happens with Peace Studies trips, especially those that occur on drives that traverse the many states necessary to travel to Boston. “One exciting thing about traveling in a group like this is you are helping build group bonds. You will be exposed not only to the conference material, but you will be able to talk about big ideas that the conference raises with fellow students. It’s also really great to do this with close friends,” she said.

Katy Gray Brown, associate professor of philosophy and Peace Studies and director of the Peace Studies program, shares what is so necessary about such conferences, like PJSA, in regards to individual and community student growth. “Hearing new ideas, thinking about things in new ways, finding out what students are doing on other campuses, and talking about ways to integrate these new ideas on campus is what is happening on these trips,” she said.

Gray Brown continued: “A lot of really fertile ideas occur to use in environmental or other work for what we could be implementing in our community here. It’s really valuable to nurture our interests in these ways to be part of a community that’s really passionate about shared principles. In peace studies that’s how we endeavor to make the world more peaceful and more just.”

There is always a different theme to PJSA conferences with interdisciplinary interests approached through the common lens of commitment to non-violence. “Some epiphanies during conferences come from traveling as a community,” Gray Brown said. “There is a lot of good energy around experiential education happening when going someplace together or going someplace new.

She continued: “It’s incredibly rewarding to be one of the group from Manchester University, as one of the few schools across the country that have been committed to bringing students every year, which is one of the things we’re known for. They see how valuable it is to have that student perspective to hear about student concerns. I always feel very fortunate to travel as a group. It becomes very clear in these conferences meeting farmers and political scientists and economists that we are all concerned about the same issues.”

Kay Guyer, a senior peace studies major, faced some of these issues as she worked with a group while at PSJA. “I’ve been weighing the decision of whether I want to reform or revolutionize,” she asked aloud. “Do I want to work against the system trying to transform it, or do I want to live a new way until it is accepted, a new way of inflicting change as well?”

These are just a few of the many concepts conceived at conferences like PSJA that are meant to incite awareness, conversation, and change.

Peaceful ideas are only useful when implemented. It may be common sense to someone to approach an idea in a way that will do the least damage, but it isn’t common sense to somebody. The job of a caring individual, and community, is to seek to find ways to inflict positive change. In terms of humanity, we are all concerned with social justice which is what makes this such an interdisciplinary conference concerning any major.

Ask yourself what you stand for or come to a conference like PJSA to find out.

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