From the Emirates: Peace studies concentration announced

Graphic by Megan Eloise/The Gazelle

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Issue 35 of The Gazelle, the student publication at NYU Abu Dhabi. It has been reprinted with permission as a part of an ongoing collaboration between The Gazelle and WSN to connect our two campuses.

As announced at the General Assembly on March 30, a new interdisciplinary concentration has been approved by the NYU Abu Dhabi Faculty Council. The Peace Studies concentration will combine research from psychology, the humanities and the social sciences.

The concentration is the result of a process involving students, faculty and administration. According to Vice Chancellor Al Bloom, Peace Studies is in many ways central to the mission of a university like NYUAD.

Bloom stated that the possibility of using education and research for a more peaceful world is a motivating factor for the faculty and students who come to NYUAD.

“Given the mission of our undergraduate college — to educate leaders of a better world — and of our research university — to respond to the challenges of this Century–it is both natural and necessary to have within our curriculum a concentration dedicated to the study of peace.”

Members of the Student Interest Group Peace360° catalyzed the process through which the concentration was defined and approved by drafting a student proposal for the concentration in the summer of 2013. The proposal was handed to a committee of faculty for review. Following town halls, discussion and input from faculty in Abu Dhabi and New York, a proposal was presented to the Faculty Council.

“It was voted down because professors thought it wasn’t multidisciplinary enough,” said sophomore Clara Correia, treasurer of Peace360°.  “There were mostly courses on social sciences and history. The argument was that it needed to be expanded to literature and psychology.”

A modified, more interdisciplinary rendition of the proposal was later presented to the Faculty Council, which passed unanimously. The first required course for the concentration is being offered in the Fall 2014 semester with two Peace Studies electives. Three other courses have been listed for future semesters. NYUAD has also advertised for a Director of Peace Studies position.

Looking to the future, Bloom said a peace institute was also under consideration. The institute could potentially host conferences and bring research fellows to Abu Dhabi. He believes the location of the university holds particular advantages, calling Abu Dhabi a new crossroads of the world.

As a relatively new and interdisciplinary field, Peace Studies is not available at many universities, leading Correia to believe that the concentration would draw people coming to NYUAD for a different educational experience.

For Bloom, peace is at the center of the mission of NYUAD.

“Fundamentally I am persuaded it is possible to realize the human quest for a peaceful world. The more I have travelled and the more I have researched the bases of human commonality, the more I am convinced that, with the right perspectives, education and institutions internationally in place, peace is really possible. The development of NYU Abu Dhabi is a way of creating the leaders who will produce that peace.”

Riaz Howey is deputy news editor at The Gazelle. Email him at riaz@thegazelle.org.

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