Rich Stowell

Rich Stowell

Communication/College of Humanities

2013-2014

Peace & Conflict Integrative Capstone Course: PCST 3900, Conflict Dialogue

Faculty Mentor: David Derezotes - Peace & Conflict Studies/College of Social Work

 

David Derezotes, a professor of social work and the director of the Peach & Conflict Studies (P&CS) Program, has noted that that University of Utah students don’t often confront the sensitive issues in contemporary society, and that instructors sometimes avoid confrontational dialogue as a strategy for keeping the peace. Realizing that the P&CS program is designed to help students think and communicate systematically about difficult topics and problems, the need is present for a way to get students and instructors engaged in these sensitive yet important conversations.

 

Peace & Conflict Integrative Capstone Course: PCST 3900, Conflict Dialogue

As the graduate assistant for the Peace & Conflict Studies Program, and a student of conflict communication, I will design an integrative capstone course for the Peace & Conflict Studies Program at the University of Utah. The interdisciplinary program offers a major and a minor; its strength is its diversity of course offerings. But its diffusion across departments and colleges poses a challenge: how do you get students to integrate what they have learned from such a wide variety of disciplines? Moreover, the need for syllabi and course content to be developed in advance makes applying theoretical material to contemporary issues difficult.

Our program has an opportunity to meet both challenges. PCST 3900 will be a one-hour course that aims at helping students talk about contemporary issues as they relate to their fields of study within peace and conflict.

For this project I will complete the administrative steps for getting the course approved and listed. This will include developing a syllabus, incorporating learning outcomes, providing suggestions for assessment, and creating several sample lessons. The course will require reading, but issues are unknown until they come up in real time, so I will formulate criteria for selecting appropriate readings for any semester and any set of students.

 

Benefits

Students in many disciplines will have opportunities to bring their academic and personal perspectives to complicated issues. Take, for example, the recent conflicts in the US Congress over the debt ceiling. P&CS students who approach their major with an economic emphasis can bring their insights to conversations about the implications of intra-governmental conflict. Those with an interest in social justice can contribute likewise. The skills practiced in this course will be a set that students can relay to their other classes and places of employment. We will also develop methods for teaching such skills, and smart ways to evaluate them.

Outcomes and Assessment

Several learning outcomes need to be clarified. Among the most important are the skill of engaging different perspectives in mindful and constructive conversations about issues of conflict. Second, but perhaps no less important, is the skill of listening and asking questions in order to understand problems more completely. Relating topics to a broad study program is a goal, as are reflecting and reevaluating one’s positions. Leading peers in these discussions is another outcome. Finally, integrating material and methods of inquiry from multiple disciplines into real problems is a major purpose for the program and will be for the course.

Sustainability and Impact

This course is likely to become a capstone requirement for the major and the minor. As our program grows, it will be assigned to instructors in a variety of departments, so the foundation will have been laid for our program to develop and improve.