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My Manchester Story

Virginia Rendler

by Marie Fisher | Jun 20, 2022

What led you to Manchester University as a student?

 

I first heard about Manchester when I was applying to college because my mom graduated from Manchester College in 1982. She wanted me to visit Manchester, and I was staunchly opposed. Coming from Minneapolis, I did not want to attend a school in such a rural area, and I was nervous about being so far from home. I didn’t know what I wanted to study in college, but when I visited Manchester to humor my mom and heard about the Peace Studies Program, I was hooked. I toured other schools, thinking to myself, this place would be perfect if they only had a peace studies major. Eventually it became clear that peace studies was the program for me, and Manchester is where I needed to be. In my first semester, I realized that a smaller school farther from home was perfect for building my self confidence and becoming independent in a safe environment. I felt instantly connected with faculty and peers who became family, and I am so grateful I made that choice. 

 

What inspired your interest in peace studies?

 

I grew up in a very human rights-oriented household. My parents dedicated their professional and personal time to organizations that provided direct relief to survivors of violence. I was inspired by these efforts – I felt that committing myself to the pursuit of justice was a worthwhile use of my time. In high school, I had big ideas about social justice, and knew I wanted to make a difference, but I didn’t have the language to communicate my ideas. In discovering peace studies, I realized there was a community of people who shared my values. There was an entire academic discipline devoted to what I considered to be a core tenant of who I am as a person. I was excited to discover this new language, and to investigate how I might be a peacebuilder at a variety of levels. I’m still discovering where my unique skills and interests will be of most use in the global community. I feel lucky to be surrounded by people who are similarly dedicated to discovering their place in the world.

 

Share some of your favorite memories you’ve made with your position so far.

 

I spent four years within the Peace Studies Program as a student, and now have worked as peace studies coordinator for two years. There have been so many incredible memories – traveling to New Orleans, Atlanta, Memphis, Chicago, Montgomery and more. Taking students on volunteering excursions is one of my favorite things to do, both in North Manchester and further afield. I love spending time with students on campus, in student meetings or in the Peace Studies Lounge. My favorite memories come from long conversations that spill out of the classroom or sharing ideas over tea and coffee. Interacting with students and my colleagues is absolutely the best part of this position. 

 

Why should current students consider taking a peace studies course?

Peace studies exemplifies the liberal arts tradition. It pulls from and is relevant to many fields: philosophy, political science, religious studies, sociology, social work, international studies, environmental studies, education, public health, and more. We like to talk about peace studies as a lens through which you can view any academic or professional field. If you have any interest in social justice, peace studies courses will provide you with the tools necessary to bring that interest to your endeavors, no matter what you are studying. Peace studies equips students with tools necessary to advocate for justice and nonviolence in their future pursuits, whether that be health care, business, sports, marketing, math or any career! If you want tools to help you be a more effective communicator, to better understand the world and to strategically affect change, I recommend taking at least one peace studies course. 

 

What’s next in your future plans?

 

I plan to enter Brethren Volunteer Service to go abroad for two years and do volunteer work with organizations devoted to justice and reconciliation. I hope to be able to apply the theoretical concepts I’ve gained in the classroom and practical experience I’ve developed in this job to serve communities in need. After my time abroad, I intend to continue my education in the field of peace studies and philosophy.