When I applied to attend the 2011 Peacebuilding Peacelearning Intensive in Burlington, VT I was excited but did not really know what to expect. I knew that the intensive had an emphasis on envisioning and developing peacebuilding initiatives in our respective communities, but little did I know how much going through that experience with the other amazing individuals from around the world who were attending would have on my life. From the opening session of the intensive I was meeting and learning about the work that the other participants were doing that I immediately started thinking bigger about my peacebuilding initiative.
I went into PPI with the following vision in mind – to establish a peace education certificate program at AmericanUniversity, where I had been teaching as an adjunct for a couple years at that point. By the end of the intensive, though, my vision had blossomed further and was for AmericanUniversity to become the premiere institution for peace education in the United States and that only part of that would, one day, involve a certificate program. With that vision and commitment in mind, I had a level of determination and confidence not felt prior to PPI.
Immediately upon returning to DC I reached out to me friends and colleagues (deans, professors, students, and program coordinators) from different schools and departments at the university and shared this vision with all my passion. Folks were on board and the ball started rolling. Fast forward to January 2013 and I am appointed Peace Educator in Residence in the School of Education, Teaching and Health. This is a position designed to promote, highlight, and develop peace education efforts at AU and the surrounding DC community. Then fast forward to July 2013 and my colleagues and I co-organized a “Cultivating Peace in Our Schools” gathering that brought together DC area organizations who do peace education work and DC area teachers to learn about the methods, models and program these organizations are spreading throughout the area. This gathering is just one of several peace education initiatives that are underway as I work with my partners at AU to keep forming and realizing the vision.
Would any of this happened had I not attended PPI? There is no way to answer that. What I can say, however, is that as I have been finding my way in this new position, organizing peace education events, and elevating AU’s status as a premier peace education institution, PPI and all the wonderful individuals who were part of that experience are with me! I can see their faces, I can hear their stories, visions, ideas and accomplishments and with that draw from a constant pool of support and inspiration. I have been involved in envisioning and goal setting exercises before, but I can truly say that PPI has been one of the most successful because of the community it helped create and the spirit that enveloped the entire process.