Professors participate in Peace Education Collaborative
by Karen Clark
March 6, 2009

Faculty and administrators from Methodist colleges and universities in Brazil, Japan and the United States recently partnered together online during a 21-Day Peace Education Collaborative for the purpose of furthering peace studies at their institutions. Among the group were LaGrange College’s Dr. David Ahearn and Dr. Sarah Beth Mallory.

The three-week virtual course grew out of the Methodist Global Ethics Initiative, an effort to bring together a network of Methodist schools, colleges and universities into a dialogue that will lead to a more just, sustainable and peaceful future.

Participants from six Methodist institutions in these countries engaged in daily assignments, participated in discussions and posted their findings based on studies in population, conflict, resource management, technology, information, economic integration and governance—global concerns known as the 7 Revolutions.

The 7 Revolutions project is a product of the research of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a bipartisan, nonprofit organization that helps organizations think strategically about the future and anticipate global change. Oikos Inc., an organization dedicated to educating current and future leaders about peace and non-violence, human need and ecological sustainability, used the 7 Revolutions project as a foundation for the 21-day online seminar. 

Dr. David Rowe, Oikos cofounder and Vice President for Advancement at LaGrange College, created and facilitated the 21-Day Peace Education Collaborative curriculum.

“This first collaborative focused on peace,” he said. “Given the global trends as outlined by CSIS, we asked the participants to think about ways to educate today’s students so that they can become tomorrow’s leaders with the capacity to prevent, reduce and transform violent conflict.”

The Methodist Global Ethics Initiative is the vision of Dr. Eugene M. Decker III, trustee emeritus of the United Methodist Higher Education Foundation and a former university professor.

“We need to educate a whole generation of moral leaders who will be actively involved in creating a compassionate society globally,” he said. In addition to competence in their majors, Decker believes college graduates need “an ethical and compassionate view of the world and an understanding of their responsibility for it.”

Oikos Inc. used a gift from Decker to award mini-grants to each Collaborative participant.  The awards are to be used to advance peace education on their campuses and to promote collaboration among Methodist institutions on global ethics.

Dr. David Ahearn, Religion and Philosophy Chair and Professor at LaGrange, completed the 21-day course and plans to use his grant to strengthen the efforts of the Oikos scholars program at the institution.

“Working with colleagues at Methodist institutions internationally has been remarkable,” he said. “Together, we’re learning what it means to be Methodists who are passionate about sustainability.”

Dr. Sarah Beth Mallory, Chair and Associate Professor of Biology at the College, plans to offer her award to the school’s Oikos program as well.

“We hope our students will become involved in Web-based communication with students from the other Methodist institutions involved in the collaborative,” she said.

Dr. Rowe said the creative proposals for future collaborations have “gone in directions I could not have originally anticipated.”

“The initial outcomes are a real testimony to the participants’ creativity and their own commitment for making this world a more peaceful place.”

In addition to LaGrange College, Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, Kan.; Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio; Oklahoma City University in Oklahoma City, Okla.; Ayoma Gakiun University in Japan; and Izabella Hendrix University in Brazil participated in the project. They are part of more than 600 Methodist higher education institutions around the world.

Course materials were provided by The New York Times Knowledge Network, a partnership between the newspaper and CSIS.

Dr. Rowe and his colleagues plan to present their agenda for collaboration at the June 2009 meeting of the Higher Education Institute in Arlington, Texas, where the theme will be “Pedagogy for Peace: Educating Moral Leaders in a Violent World.”

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