One of the benefits of being a professional in the field of higher education is the opportunity to change the lives of students at a critical point in their personal development. As young adults discover who they are and attempt to map out their future, or at least determine the direction they will take upon graduation, they need to know how they can make a difference.
As Dean of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego (USD), Patricia Márquez understands the perils of conflict, the importance of conflict resolution, and the need to develop peace professionals.
Dean Márquez doesn’t open her talk by referencing USD, or her own experience as an educator, but rather tells a historical tale that takes the audience back in time to “113 years ago, in 1895”. She goes on to explain how Charles Eliot, the president of Harvard University, decided to start a business school at the university. This combination of a second hand story and historical narrative is a compelling way to begin her talk about the importance of peace studies in a world that is dealing with conflict at every turn.
At three minutes into her talk Dean Márquez brings us a century forward into the present day, and for the first time introduces the topic of conflict resolution. She makes the case that just as business education became a foundational piece of our expanding economy, peace studies will become just as pivotal in shaping our collective future. This is an interesting way in which an audience comes to understand the merits of an idea by hearing about a similar, or parallel story that comes to the same conclusion. “We need professionals to build peace.”
This statement becomes her stake in the ground, the key idea that she will go on to explain in detail with specific examples of how this paradigm is playing out around the world. She then uses specific examples to illustrate the challenges we face in achieving peaceful coexistence. From New York City to Kibera, Nairobi, Mexico City and Cape Town, to the most common human desire, to live a better life, as exemplified by the flow of migrants.
“In an increasingly diverse, dense, and connected world, the question for us is how to build peaceful coexistence where the rights of all individuals are being met.”
How does your story relate to events in the past? Is there a parallel story that can highlight the path of your own narrative? Are there personal stories that provide current and relevant examples of how your idea or solution can change the status quo?
Peace Innovators is a program from the Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego in which select faculty members prepare presentations that are focused on the human issues they address within their professional studies as well as class curriculum. I had the pleasure of working with each of these speakers as they prepared their talks.