Peace and Conflict Studies

West Chester University

Dr. Dean Johnson, Coordinator
610-436-2754
Anderson Hall, Room 332A
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383


Welcome to Peace and Conflict Studies

“The Peace and Conflict Minor is very applicable to my future goals. Conflict is bound to arise in any work environment, and knowing how to handle it is pertinent.” - Current Student

“I feel like I am prepared for the realities of being an advocate, I know what to look for and how to react in a safe and positive way.” - WCU Graduate

Peace and Conflict Studies, an interdisciplinary program at West Chester University, is a curriculum that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s (the oldest program in the country dates to 1948) but which has seen its most rapid growth during the past 20 years. Drawing from a diversity of specialized academic domains, especially the social studies and humanities; Peace and Conflict Studies is an academic area of study concerned with issues related to conflict, war, peace and nonviolent alternatives to violence. Peace and Conflict Studies seeks alternatives to violence through critical analysis, social change and conflict transformation.  The minor gives attention to war, but also to structural violence, with a view toward shaping a world where violence of all sorts is much less prevalent.

The intent of the program is to show that conflict can be transformed—not necessarily eliminated—without violence. What Peace and Conflict Studies aims for is a world in which "positive peace" prevails (a world of justice), not just the negative peace of warlessness. The minor seeks to help students become social change agents by developing:

  • Skills to recognize, manage and transform conflict.  Our lives are full of conflicts which can be used in transformative ways to create positive relationships and new ways of understanding.  Minors in Peace and Conflict Studies will develop the tools to understand personal, interpersonal, group and social conflicts, as well as, ways of transforming those conflicts.
  • A critical approach to war and peace, considering historic, strategic and ethical contexts to understand why political actors choose war or diplomacy, and why communities choose social movements, or freedom fighting or terrorism, as their way to engage conflict. Students analyze the power dynamics in and leading to intragroup and international conflict situations, and develop the skills to analyze conflicts.
  • A critical understanding of systemic power, privilege, and injustice.  The world is an entanglement of systems which create power and privilege for some people at the expense of others. The systems justify oppression. Students will develop self-awareness and cultural sensibilities that will allow them to be active global citizens. 
  • The ability to create and engage in nonviolent social “change initiatives.”* Any person serious about building a better world will lead, help frame or contribute to specific efforts to improve their community, organization, or broader society – attempts to address an issue and make a concrete change. People ready for this work will understand how this process works and how to play a leadership role in catalyzing change initiatives.  

It should be noted that this program is an 18-credit academic minor only, not a major, and will not lead to a bachelor's or master's degree. Transcript recognition will be given.

Requirements for Minor

What Can You Do With a Peace and Conflict Studies Minor?
A minor in Peace and Conflict Studies is applicable to most people in their work lives, regardless of career.  Everyone who takes courses in the minor benefits from practical applications in their personal lives. Students have been inspired to immerse themselves for a period in /social change work, whether it not it's what they do for pay.  Many things can be done with a Peace and Conflict Studies minor.  Four basic areas people with Peace and Conflict Studies minors work within are: mediation/conflict management, teaching, social services and political/advocacy work.  Mediators and conflict managers work with individuals, groups, and even countries who are in conflict to reach win/win agreements.  People with Peace and Conflict Studies minor can work in mediation and conflict management in personnel departments, mediation centers, and the government and in diplomatic relations.  Peace and Conflict Studies minor can also lead people to teach in high schools and colleges.  Those who choose to teach often teach groups and students the alternatives to violence and positive conflict resolution.  People in the social service fields find themselves in jobs working with those who are the poor and abused in society.  Often social service workers work at nonprofit or governmental organizations providing services and working on behalf of those who have been historically disenfranchised.  A Peace and Conflict Studies minor can also lead people to move into the field of politics.  Within the political field people have worked in nonprofit advocacy groups, political groups or in political campaigns.  Many times those in the political field often lend a voice to the voiceless working for human rights or make public issues of injustice for public debate.

For More Information:
Dr. Dean J. Johnson, Director
Peace and Conflict Studies
610-436-2754
djohnson4@wcupa.edu
Anderson Hall Room 332a
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383
*”Change Initiatives” is a phrase coined by Matt Guynn of Portland, OR.  He is a nonviolence trainer and social justice advocate.