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Source: Torry Dickinson, 785-532-7781, dickins@k-state.edu

Thursday, May 5, 2011

PEACEFUL FINISH: NONVIOLENCE STUDIES CERTIFICATE PROGRAM HAS FIRST GRADUATES

MANHATTAN -- Mariana Mancera and Andrea Conrad will be getting something extra with the bachelor's degrees they're earning soon from Kansas State University. They also will be the first recipients of K-State's nonviolence studies certificate.

The interdisciplinary certificate program, launched in 2007, requires 15 credit hours to complete. It's offered by K-State's College of Arts and Sciences and administered by the department of sociology, anthropology and social work.

A certificate is a nondegree credential which shows a student has gained specialized knowledge, usually in an interdisciplinary field related to their major. K-State currently offers 34 certificate programs at the graduate level and 20 programs at the undergraduate level, including in nonviolence studies.

"It's been exciting watching Mariana and Andrea participate in my classes over the last two years. They have taught all of us about the constructive power of nonviolence thought and action," said Torry Dickinson, a professor of women's studies who teaches several courses for the nonviolence studies program.

"Nonviolence studies is not about pacifism, as many students and teachers assume," Dickinson said. "It's about understanding how and why problems emerge and how and why many forms of violence occur. It's about identifying ways to prevent hierarchical relationships, and ways to prevent social problems and disasters, including wars and their destruction of life. Ultimately nonviolence studies is about taking strong, active steps every day to create new ways of relating and living. It's about sustaining and enhancing life."

K-State's nonviolence studies program is holistic, systems-based, analytical and grounded in the local-to-global study of historical and contemporary development, Dickinson said, which distinguishes it from the other 400 nonviolence studies programs at U.S. colleges and universities. Most of these programs focus on peace studies and conflict resolution, which form a part of nonviolence studies at K-State.

"I liked the classes so much that I almost have as many credits in nonviolence studies as I do in psychology, which is my major," said Conrad, who is from Wakefield.

Some of the nonviolence studies classes were cross-listed with classes in Conrad's minor, women's studies. Last fall she took the course Women and Global Social Change, which provided credit for nonviolence studies. In that class she met Dickinson, who encouraged her to apply to the McNair Scholars Program, which prepares undergraduate students for successful careers as graduate students, professors and professional researchers. Dickinson became Conrad's McNair Scholars research adviser and mentor.

Conrad is in the middle of defining her McNair Scholars research project, which she'll complete in August. She and her family are then moving to Georgia, where Conrad plans to look at master's and doctorate programs in women's, gender and sexuality studies offered in the Eastern Seaboard. She hopes to receive an assistantship or fellowship so that she can complete doctoral work in women's and gender studies.

Mancera, a women's studies major from Manhattan, is applying to AmeriCorps. She would like to work with women, youth or homeless people in supportive or shelter contexts. Mancera, whose first language is Spanish, has worked with people from all cultures of the U.S. and the world. Her language and cross-cultural skills have enabled her to establish meaningful social connections with others.

"I need to follow my passion. I want to make social change," she said.

Mancera said taking the combined Feminist Practice and Applied Nonviolence capstone course in nonviolence studies, taught by Dickinson, changed her outlook on school.

"I took the course two years ago and that's when school began to change for me. It all came alive in this class, it all came together," Mancera said. "We students created a book; we all wrote one chapter on our field experience work. We created a nonviolence game as a final project and we played it after we had a potluck one evening. We came up with and completed a five-stage final exam. I got so engaged that I benefited from all my classes and from my nonviolence studies work that followed."

The nonviolence studies certificate program grew out of the Campaign for Nonviolence, a presidential-level committee that is chaired by Dorinda Lambert, director of K-State counseling services. Nadezda Shapkina, assistant professor of sociology, is the academic adviser for nonviolence studies. The nonviolence studies governing board includes Shapkina; Dickinson; Betsy Cauble, associate professor and head of the department of sociology, anthropology and social work; Jacque Gibbons, associate professor of social work; Robert Schaeffer, professor of sociology; and Susan Allen, anthropologist and director emerita of K-State's nonviolence programs.

Mancera and Conrad join a long list of students who took Introduction to Nonviolence Studies and Applied Nonviolence before a certificate program was offered. According to Allen and Charlie Perkins, professor emeritus of psychology, who team-taught the first course, former nonviolence studies students are now working as lawyers and clergy leaders, and in the fields of social justice, environmental preservation, wellness, community organizing and domestic violence prevention.

"Their nonviolence work contributes to cultural change and helps all of us," Dickinson said.