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Ball State Center for Peace offers academic opportunities

By Meghan Braddy and Grayson Joslin, The Daily News | Published on in The Daily News
The Ball State Center for Peace and Conflict sits just off campus April 19. The center is dedicated to promoting peace-building and conflict resolution. Andrew Berger, DN

At the southernmost point of campus is the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, a place dedicated to promoting peace-building and conflict resolution.

The center offers several academic programs where students can address all forms of violence through various projects and activities that allow them to resolve conflicts healthily.

One key program offered by the center is the peace studies and conflict resolution minor for undergraduate students. The interdisciplinary minor consists of 18 credits and “teaches strategies such as mediation, conflict prevention and resolution to promote nonviolence, meditation and mindfulness to facilitate physical and mental health and well-being,” according to Ball State’s undergraduate catalog.

Lawrence Gerstein, director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, said undergraduate students taking the interdisciplinary minor can take courses in many different areas, such as political science, journalism and social work.

Fourth-year history and political science major Ben Brewer, graduating in July, said adding the minor has helped him further his undergraduate studies.

“The program prepares students for encouraging positive peace within their daily lives … [Students] learn concepts [like] mediation and active listening,” Brewer said.

Gerstein said the center’s internship program allows students to assist with writing, researching and drafting grant proposals for the center. Interns may also be aware of the promotional opportunities found in the program’s social media platforms to extend community outreach.

“[Student interns are] instrumental in our conceptualization and implementation of our conferences,” Gerstein said.

However, the Center for Peace offers opportunities to more than just undergraduate students. Its graduate assistant program equips students with the tools and knowledge to become leaders in the field of peace and conflict studies.

“[Graduate assistants are] teaching the interns how to use different databases to gather information for grants and for research studies,” Gerstein said.

Coming to Ball State for both her master’s and doctorate of counseling psychology, Madison Pavone was asked by Gerstein to be the organization’s current graduate assistant in 2022, serving a two-year term. Pavone’s research interests include reducing prejudice toward marginalized communities.

In her role as a graduate assistant, Pavone works with undergraduate students, helps plan events and writes book reviews for the center. She also has helped with conflict resolution training for Muncie Community Schools (MCS) to help educators with mediation skills.

“It has been very beneficial for me professionally and personally,” Pavone said. “It has given me some serious organizational skills that I can take on in any future position I have.”

The Center for Peace also offers funds for Ball State faculty and graduate students for nonviolence-related research projects. The Benjamin V. Cohen Peace Grant, named after the Muncie-born lawyer who played a role in creating the United Nations, has been supported by the Cohen Memorial Fund since 1984.

In 2017, the Peace Grant was given to a Ball State research team that included Lindsey Blom, professor of sport and exercise psychology, and Gerstein.

With the Cohen Grant money, Blom, a former interim director for the Center for Peace, was able to travel across the world to study Sport for Social Change, a program that increases resolution skills through sporting events.

The finished research article, published in 2021, outlined how effective coaching implements good sportsmanship among young athletes.

Blom said the Cohen Grant is extremely versatile.

“It’s one of those grants that almost every faculty member on campus could find a way to connect with,” Blom said.

One of the center’s most notable contributions to the graduate program is its annual Peace Conference, which brings together scholars, practitioners, and students to discuss and share ideas about peace-building and conflict resolution. Brewer highlighted his involvement in preparing for the April 2024 conference, which showcases the practical and meaningful work the center facilitates.

“Helping prepare for the annual Peace Conference has been extremely rewarding, along with writing weekly stories focused on altruism and positive news,” he said.

Through its academic programs, internships and conferences, the center inspires students to become advocates for peace and agents of change in their communities and beyond.Pavone said her two years working for the center provided her with valuable lessons she will put forward in her career after completing her degree.

“Being exposed to all the different [types of] research allows me to have more knowledge about what I’m going to do research on,” she said.

Contact Meghan Braddy with comments at meghan.braddy@bsu.edu or on X @meghan_braddy and Grayson Joslin at grayson.joslin@bsu.edu or on X @GraysonMJoslin.