Manchester University
Oak Leaves

April 7, 2023 - Joak Leaves

Puzzling Behavior: Peace Studies Program to Become ‘Piece Studies’

Miriam Erbaugh

After 75 long years of focus on peace and justice, Manchester University’s Peace Studies Program will be pivoting to become Piece Studies later in the month. The new puzzle-oriented program will roll out in spring 2024, following the 75th anniversary celebrations in the fall. Current faculty will be changing their course content to reflect the program shift.

“We recognized that it was time to refresh what we were doing,” explained Professor Katy Gray Brown, Professor of Philosophy and Peace Studies and Director of the Peace Studies Institute. “For 75 years, the focus has been on conflict transformation and addressing problems of violence, but now I think the pace of life is so much faster and attention spans are shorter, so we really need to be focused on what is most significant. We’ve worked hard to compartmentalize what we try to deliver in a previous four-year program into things that are more convenient and more easily adaptable.”

The idea itself came from a puzzle, which the program members had made of a picture from a January Session trip to New Orleans. The tradition continued, and there have been rotating puzzles for students to put together in the Peace Studies Lounge in the semesters since. The tradition of January Session trips will continue in January of 2024 with a puzzle-focused international trip to Kenya.

Changing to a puzzle focus can offer students hope. The goals of Peace Studies, such as ending war and violence completely, may seem unattainable; but solving a puzzle is not only easy to complete but also rewarding when finished. Though the world may feel at times depressing, with a news cycle that promotes stress and a sense of impending doom, puzzles offer hope, light and build community. Success at piece-ing could be accomplished in an hour.

The soon to be Piece Studies faculty researched student interest before proposing the change. “It’s based on market analysis,” said Gray Brown. “We have discovered that students today like a modular program to fit with their own interests and to be delivered on their timetable. And we think that most of what significant about our former program can really be delivered in these more manageable pieces.”

The ultimate goal is to make more of an impact on students within the program. Gray Brown summed it up with a cliché: “[The pivot to Piece Studies] is so that students can take a piece of Manchester with them when they leave.”

As far as real-world applications for Piece Studies graduates, Anuj Gurung, the Gladdys Muir Assistant Professor of Peace Studies, can see the degree applying to many fields. “Puzzles, I feel like, are metaphors for life, how to take all of these difficult things and put them into manageable pieces,” he said. Graduates could look forward to careers in puzzle-solving, puzzle-creating, puzzle-salespersonship or even puzzling masters or doctorate degrees. The opportunities are endless, if only students assemble the pieces properly.

Classes will take on a new experiential format. They will be entirely hands on, with classes offered for a wide variety of skill levels. “We have 2000-piece puzzles, 1000-piece puzzles, 500-piece puzzles, and even 250-piece puzzles for beginners,” Gurung said. There will also be puzzles covering all interests and topics in the Peace (soon to be Piece) Studies Lounge. The program will continue to offer Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts, and Minors.

The program will prioritize flexibility and solution-oriented thinking. Similarly to the former courses, new courses will instill creative thinking and teach diverse methods of approaching problems. In order to reach a wider audience, the courses will also be offered in multiple formats. “There will be high flex delivery so that people can work on our on our pieces in person and the Piece Studies Lounge or if people need to join remotely, we will have, we will have those options for people,” said Gray Brown.

So far, the program is looking like it will have a bright future. Testing has been positive, and with the official announcement coming later this month, faculty are looking forward to what is to come. “Our hope is that this move will allow us to take what is most important to our program and most distinctively Manchester but also make it fun, accessible, and easily added on to any program,” explained Gray Brown.