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Zander Willoughby

Peace Studies Conference: Learning Together

by Zander Willoughby | Jan 19, 2018
Last Thursday at 5:00 am, 12 students piled into the University bus with our professors Katy Gray-Brown and Elton Skendaj for a 566 mile, 10.5 hour drive to Birmingham, Alabama with only one Waffle House stop! Why would we subject ourselves to this? For the annual Peace and Justice Studies Association conference, of course! This yearly conference bring together professors, professionals, and students from all around the U.S. and Canada to discuss the field of Peace and Justice studies. Most of the conference consisted of research presentations with discussion. Our very own Katie Jo Breidenbach Wooding presented her research, “Conscientious Objection & Draft Resistance: The Vietnam War” and Elton Skendaj presented on “Student Stories: Using Digital Media for Civic Engagement in Peace Studies Courses.” They were both great!
Apart from sitting in lectures and panels for 8 hours a day, we went as a group to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute which is right across from the Sixteenth Street Church which was bombed by extremists against the civil rights movement: Attending a peace & justice studies conference with the theme “From Civil Rights to Human Rights” in Birmingham, Alabama gave the conference a unique perspective. We live in a time where the subject of civil and human rights are both in question and are more important than ever. Debating them in a city with such a long history of oppression, violence, resistance, and nonviolence serves as a reminder to the progress this country has made, but also just how much more this country needs to make. I went to panel discussions on various topics related to peace and justice. My favorite was called, “Peace building in Africa;” it discussed how NGOs become party to land disputes in Eastern DRC, the negative effects of forced disarmament, and customary law in Uganda bringing cattle rustling to an end. As a group, one of our favorite panels was about how to get a job in peace and justice (if anyone has any tips, feel free to email me) in today’s economy. It really made me realize how strong of a peace studies program we have at Manchester and how lucky we are to have such amazing alumni is so many amazing place!

Zander E. Willoughby ’18 is a Political Science & French major & Peace Studies minor, a Multicultural Affairs Programmer, and more. He is currently in his last year at Manchester and painfully aware of that fact every day. He is currently learning French and Arabic, loves cooking and amateur photography. His future plans include pursuing a Master's in International Affairs in the hopes of working with Migration, Refugee Affairs, and Human Rights.