News and Notes

News and Notes, Summer/Fall 2018, Center for Peace Studies & Violence Prevention

Educational Mission:

We continue to support both graduate and undergraduate students. We granted four graduate thesis/dissertation research and travel awards in the 2017-18 academic year. Topics included:

1)    a biophysiological approach to studying PTSD in victims of sexual assault;

2)    the role of community cohesion in fighting extremism;

3)    U.S. federal policies and structural racism; and post-traumatic emotional and social growth in survivors of violence.

4)    indigenous resistance to land theft.

Meanwhile, two of the Center’s affiliated PhD students are participating in the UrbComp program, which uses big data to investigate issues of urbanization and urban life. They are both looking at issues involving policing and police-community relations.

Student Symposium:

We sponsor biannual undergraduate and graduate student research conferences on the Blacksburg campus as well as in Roanoke. In the coming year, we are planning to hold our flagship Symposium, “Cultivating Peace” in March, partnering with James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Undergraduate Minor:

At this time we have nearly 120 students minoring in Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. Our approach to our academic programming is evolving as well; and as Virginia Tech transforms its undergraduate educational approach with “Pathways and Destinations”-oriented curricula, we are taking initiative with the Integrated Security Destination Area as a central part of the Integrated Security Pathways minor.

Outreach and Special Events:

This past year we partnered with local and regional organizations to help promote dialogue on peace, violence, and human rights issues.

1)    Helped finance a Holocaust awareness event, the Reading of the Names, organized by White Rose, a student organization;

2)    Co-sponsored a summit on water justice this summer;

3)    Coordinated a workshop with Conversations NRV (a New River Valley organization promoting community discussions) for local neighborhood organizations on emergency preparedness.

4)    Co-sponsored a conference on the Dark Web that brought scholars from around the world to Arlington to discuss issues ranging from the use of cryptocurrencies to how the Dark Web can be used to facilitate crime and terrorist activities. The group of assembled scholars were invited to the Capital to brief Senator Warner’s staff on the dangers of the Dark Web.

5)    Hosted a Town Hall discussion about gun violence with students from area schools and students from Stoneman Douglas High School on their national tour to engage communities in such discussions.

Faculty Research:

The Center awarded five Peacebuilding Research Grants to faculty exploring violence and violence prevention. All of the projects were designed to integrate our three missions of research, education, and outreach in the area of violence prevention. Topics include:

1)    campus and community justice;

2)    assessing community-based interventions to address political polarization;

3)    addressing future crime prevention by building networks in early childhood development and education programs;

4)    alcohol-related crime reduction;

5)    investigating the role of independent environmental data in the Escobal mining conflict in Guatemala.

Publications:

Our book on Reconciliation after Civil Wars has been published by Routledge Press, with a release date of August 9th. The book is the result of about a year’s collaboration between the Center and the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies.  The CPSVP sponsored a traditional conference in the fall of 2017 where we gathered scholars from around the world who are specialists in the history and aftermath of civil conflicts.  We then invited selected presenters to an authors’ workshop last summer, and the book is a result of the papers presented and discussed there.  We received very positive pre-release feedback about the book, and we are excited about its release.

 

Our Director:

Dr. Hawdon continues to research online extremism, both domestic and cross-national, under grants from the National Institute of Justice and Virginia Tech, respectively. Over this summer, a colleague and I have been awarded funding by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the impact of memorials on communities and race relations. Another NSF grant is supporting our work on fake news and political polarization, and we’ve also gotten funding to support projects on the rhetoric of hate groups as well as research on cyberbullying and possible intervention strategies. He and several Center affiliates are currently part of a transdisciplinary team of Virginia Tech scholars researching disinformation campaigns in Eastern Europe.  We are also researching policing tactics and community partnerships.