The Art of Peace

Watch an excerpt from Poetry for Peace


New degree emphasis combines poetry and politics

The pursuit of peace is as old as time. Today’s world is crowded with war, injustice, oppression and intolerance. As a species, we have gone from writing on walls to posting on the worldwide web; from tribal hunting and gathering to lunar greenhouses; from plodding the earth to commercial space travel… so why hasn’t the human race gotten any further along the path to peace, love and understanding?

Tough question… even tougher to find the solution. The study of peace and conflict resolution as an American academic discipline is relatively new, appearing on U.S.  college campuses around the mid 20th century after World War II. It wasn’t until the late 1960s and the student concern about the Vietnam War that colleges and universities began to offer designated peace studies programs.

Tulsa Community College recently added a liberal arts degree with an emphasis in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution as an educational option for globally aware, socially conscious students.

Dr. Annie Malloy, Associate Professor of Humanities, was instrumental in the creation of TCC’s Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution degree emphasis modeled after a workshop presented by David J. Smith, Director of Education, from the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. Malloy attended the workshop, “Teaching About Global Peace and Conflict, and Promoting the Humanities and Civic Engagement,” as part of the 2009 Community College Humanities Association Conference.

TCC’s Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution degree emphasis Sidewalk Chalk - poetry for Peaceprogram is set up as a university transfer degree. To complete the program of study, students must earn 24 hours of specialized coursework in addition to their general ed and elective hours. The specialized courses are in conflict resolution, crisis intervention, anthropology, comparative governments, international relations, religion, economics, communications, arts, humanities, ecology, geography, psychology, sociology, and native and world cultures. Upon graduation, students transfer to a four-year university to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“We are looking at transfer possibilities in the state of Oklahoma with Oklahoma State University, the University of Central Oklahoma, and the University of Oklahoma, although nothing has been formalized yet. There are three areas into which this degree might transfer: social sciences, homeland security and business,” explained Malloy.

In an effort to give all TCC students the opportunity to experience the importance of cultural understanding and global awareness, peace studies were continued outside the classrooms and across campuses in the form of Teach Ins for Peace. Teach Ins for Peace was a series of events held last year that included a student poetry contest; an anti-hate event; a multicultural holiday series; gallery displays; and festivals.

Beginning last November, the first Teach In for Peace event was sponsored by the Liberal Arts, Communications, and Peace Studies programs as well as the Student Government Association.  Initiated by the Muslim Student Association, this anti-hate event was later embraced by the SGA representing all of the student organizations on campus.  Jillian Holzbauer, from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), spoke against hate and Islamophobia, pointing out how some Libyans confronted their anti-American countrymen at the time of the American diplomat’s assassination. 

The second Teach In for Peace was event was held in December. “Frieden Auf Erden” (Peace on Earth), a multicultural holiday series with stories, traditions, arts, crafts, food, music, and reflections on peace and understanding, was presented by the German Program and the International Language Lab under the direction of Roberto Maduro

In January, library staff created a gallery display promoting peace. Staff member Kay Behar and student Krutika Patel created an exhibit with a 3-D effect of cutout doves. It showcased books and quotations by people like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Jimi Hendrix.

This morphed into the fourth event in March when the library peace display was integrated into a gallery exhibit about the history of women’s rights in America.

Students absorb various original and well-known
poems that carry themes of peace at Poetry for Peace

Next, the International Language Lab and the Japanese Student Association sponsored the “Cherry Blossoms and Peace” festival in March. With more than 300 people in attendance, the festival included a full-tea ceremony, origami demonstrations, food, games, haiku, manga, poster displays and other activities.

The sixth “Teach In” was Fruhlingsfest, the German Spring Festival. This early April festival featured homemade German food, dancing, multimedia storytelling and a maypole. Sponsored by the German Student Association, the International Language Lab and Student Activities, the festival focused on the coming of spring and harmonious living with nature and others in building peace.

The final event in the series, “Poetry for Peace,” was held in late April. The event included a student poetry contest on the subject of peace and/or causes of violence. Poems were read by special guest, award-winning poet Dr. Britton Gildersleeve, director of the Oklahoma State University Writing Project. TCC faculty and staff also contributed to the day’s readings. All poems were compiled into a booklet anthology to commemorate the event. Complementing the festivities, Behar and Patel once again created a gallery exhibit. This time their art work was in support of Poetry for Peace. In addition, Josh Barnes organized a “Poetry on the Sidewalk” event for the students. More than 60 people participated in the day’s events.

The Poetry for Peace event was organized by Dr. Allen Culpepper, Assistant Professor of English, who not only wrote and performed two poems, but emceed the event as well.

“Learning is enhanced any time students interact outside the classroom and encounter new points of view. This was particularly good because students interacted with faculty, staff and guests as well as with one another,” said Culpepper.

Additional peace studies initiatives include an online resource center in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. It includes references to books, articles, films, websites and other resources about the causes of violence, alternatives to it, and ways to develop the moral imagination for peace building. More than 30 faculty, staff and administrators from all four campuses and every academic discipline have joined this online group. Other initiatives include plans for a peace or meditation garden on the Southeast Campus.

“We have established a peace studies faculty website and begun anti-hate teach ins to promote our capacity for conflict management for the affirmation and advocacy of human dignity and human rights in our pluralistic and multicultural world,” said Malloy.

Plans are being made for next year, including: an event on Islam that will involve the Northeast, Metro and Southeast Campuses; the next Poetry for Peace event; and a Drum Circle for Peace event.

“Diplomacy, debate, civil discourse, education about and alternatives to violence, eco-consciousness, cross-cultural negotiations and the challenges of peace building in the world… these are important lessons for our students to learn across the curriculum,” said Malloy.

Article: Building a Peaceful World