Peace and Justice Studies explores issues of human rights, social justice, peace, violence, and conflict, exploring their connections and distinctions through an interdisciplinary curriculum that stimulates students to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to face global challenges. Peace and Justice Studies allows students to explore a range of thematic issues by developing a series of critical analytics that enable them to discern how power and injustice operate. Peace and Justice Studies is about learning that changes how we see and engage the world and how it changes us. Our analytics shape a kind of learning that is beyond the content of specific courses and, instead, embodies a set of skills, a way of being in the world that lasts far beyond graduation and catalyzes how participants in PJS implement their learning and action in the world. Our courses are distinguished by active and experiential learning, an opportunity for students to engage issues deeply, reflectively, and critically. Our hands-on approach to learning, then, connects PJS to others around the world through internships, study abroad, study away and research projects. At the personal level, students are encouraged to engage with their own education and create unique pathways through their program. As one student noted, PJS provides a space for students to make “aggressive mistakes” and imagine new possibilities. PJS engagement is change oriented: changing the world, changing the university, changing students’ educational experience, and changing perspectives. It is a direct and expansive change, including and utilizing a set of tools to understand and challenge systemic inequalities. It is learning that creates structural and personal change that is both active and reflective. At the same time PJS is oriented to change, it is also committed to the distanced reflection of academia – especially critiques of intervention. PJS is transformational. It is about changing one’s-self and one’s perspective on the world. It is about encounters that provide dialogue and experience, foster empathy and understanding. These personal experiences are connected to larger systems of inequality and reflection on power, position and privilege. PJS is about being responsible and committed. PJS values all learners and allows students to adapt the program to their goals and learning styles. PJS is about connecting to difference. From MSU to specific places around the world through research, study abroad, and new digital technologies, PJS enables collaborative learning with others around the world. It is about moving beyond the familiar into zones of difference and discomfort but also attending to making a difference in everyday life at home as well and connecting various sites of learning. It provides curricular and co-curricular forums for exploring ongoing crises and events at the same time that it provides a chance for participants think about the long-term systems and societal structures at the root of immediate crises. PJS provides a context for what one student identified as “a focus on systemic responses instead of just a reflex against whatever evil is most obviously identified in the media.”
I continue to be inspired by the work of our faculty and students in engaging the multiple challenges posed by the contemporary moment. Our students are eager to be active participants in the world and have asked us for more concrete skills to be engaged global citizens. Please join us for this discussion series. I encourage you to explore our website, sign up for our newsletter to learn more about what our students are doing on campus and beyond.
Elizabeth Drexler – Director, Peace and Justice Studies