• Southwestern Assistant Dean for Student Multicultural Terri Johnson
    Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame

Assistant Dean for Student Multicultural Affairs Terri Johnson spent last week engaging in the 11th annual Summer Institute (SI) for Faculty at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. The SI is a weeklong training for academics who want to launch or strengthen peace studies programs at their colleges or universities.

Johnson relished the intensive learning experience but also the institute’s warm, inviting atmosphere. “Being in an academic environment where I felt so free to be myself in a room surrounded by colleagues who gave so much of themselves intellectually made the knowledge flow like a river,” Johnson reflects. “It was truly a vibrant and intense week where diverse cultures and perspectives flourished and were easily welcomed and shared with each other.” Johnson adds that she especially appreciated connecting with her fellow participants, with whom she bonded by sharing stories. “I was surprised by how easily people shared their ideas without fear or competition. It became a space and a place where I felt welcomed, where I truly felt at home, and where I was able to share openly,” she comments. “I will never forget the generosity of the staff and faculty of the Kroc Institute, which made the experience even more enjoyable.”

This year’s SI brought together 59 faculty, administrators, researchers, and staff from 29 colleges, universities, and peacebuilding organizations from 12 different countries. Attendees participated in plenary sessions in the morning and then worked in teams on a previously identified project or challenge facing their own institution during afternoon sessions. Kroc Institute faculty members met with groups to provide guidance and input when needed.

Johnson enjoyed all of the workshops and activities that she engaged in. However, her favorite was the “From Conflict Resolution to Conflict Transformation” workshop led by David Anderson Hooker, an associate professor of the practice of conflict transformation and peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute. She also valued learning about the Strategic Peacebuilding Paths Wheel, which highlights the different aspects of strategic peacebuilding—such as how to prevent violence, respond to conflict, create change at the level of institutions and governments, and promote justice and healing. “I enjoyed learning about [that] and how to utilize this as a tool in my daily professional and personal life,” she remarks.

In addition to learning effective tools and leadership and scholarship development strategies for building peace and justice, Johnson is grateful to have gained access to a slew of resources that she has brought back to share with the rest of the Southwestern community. “I plan to immediately begin reviewing some of the language used in our programs, services, committees, and organizations when we discuss diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice,” she says. “There is so much that I want to do. I came up with a list of goals while I was at the institute to work on for the next two years. The institute truly changed my life, and I want to share so much with everyone and I would like to see more of my colleagues attend the institute in the future.

Since its inaugural event in 2009, the SI has hosted more than 420 attendees from 125 different institutions across six continents. In addition, Kroc faculty have conducted modified programs like the SI in Uganda and in Bogota, Colombia.

“At the SI, we want to make space for institutions to come to our campus for an intensive week of learning and hopefully to go home empowered with new knowledge and a curricular plan,” says George A. Lopez, the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Professor Emeritus of Peace Studies at Notre Dame and the founder of the SI. “We hope that universities will understand the perspectives and skills in peace studies as the critical citizenship education of our era.”

Johnson is certainly heeding that message and hopes to apply and share what she learned during her transformative experience. “I was truly honored to attend the Summer Institute for Faculty in Peace Studies,” Johnson said. “The opportunity to engage with other academics and leaders in a very meaningful and impactful way was so very inspiring. To be able to contribute back in the shaping of crucial dialogues, policies, and programming will have a long-term impact in our communities. I am so thankful for this opportunity.”