A Deep Dive into College Majors: Peace, Conflict and Justice
By Mihika Vyas, Press & Written Media Team
What does it mean to major in Peace, Conflict and Justice?
I first heard about majoring in Peace, Conflict and Justice in my freshman year at the University of Toronto. The program was introduced to me as “PCJ” through an alumni of the First Year Foundation One program I was a part of. I remember being immediately intrigued by the name of the program, especially since prior to enrolling into university, I wasn’t aware that such disciplines even existed. While the name of the major made it abundantly clear that course lectures and concepts would cover issues of peace making, conflict resolution and justice, I was eager to learn more about the program.
As a second-year university student about to major in Peace, Conflict and Justice, here’s what I know about the program, and what I think you should know too!
The Peace, Conflict and Justice major is considered to be an interdisciplinary field of study, covering the origins, meaning and causes of peace, conflict and justice, and strategies for peacefully resolving interpersonal, communal and international conflict. This is achieved while placing emphasis on the experiences of communities and individuals residing in these contexts.
Topics of study span across interstate warfare, revolutions, human rights advocacy, global justice and the theoretical and intellectual frameworks of negotiation and peace building, to name a few.
Peace, Conflict and Justice studies can be defined as a social science field that looks at violent and nonviolent behaviors along with the structural mechanisms of approaching conflicts such that these processes are understood in a manner that leads to a more desirable human condition. The program might involve the disciplines of philosophy, political science, geography, economics, psychology, sociology, international relations, history and anthropology, as well courses in the humanities and life sciences that would place emphasis on issues of peace, conflict and justice.
With regards to the program’s history, interest in what we now consider to be peace studies first appeared through the birth of college campus clubs in the United States in the years following the American Civil War. While these clubs were merely student discussion groups rather than formal courses, they also began to appear in Sweden towards the end of the 19th century. The first known peace studies course offered in an institution of higher education was at Swarthmore College in 1888. According to a report in the International Herald Tribune in 2008, over 400 programs of teaching and research in peace, conflict and justice studies are now taught at various universities, colleges and research institutes.
Potential career paths:
Since studying peace, conflict and justice covers a wide range of disciplines and allows students the ability to mold their coursework to their interests, graduates have the opportunity to pursue jobs and careers in a plethora of fields. Most of these careers would require a masters in the same field; however, here are some examples of the work you can expect to engage in with a background in peace, conflict and justice. While I am not a hundred percent sure about my post-grad plans in terms of what I would like to study, I am particularly interested in either going into journalism or working in the non-profit sector.
- Campaign Manager
- Dispute Resolution Specialist
- Economic Development Worker
- Environmental Policy Specialist
- Human Rights Advocate
- Human Rights Lawyer
- International Development Worker
- International Relations Specialist
- Lawyer for International Law
- Non-profit Director
- Policy Analyst
- Political Risk Analyst
- Public Relations Specialist
- Research Associate
- Social Policy Advisor
- Social Worker
- Youth Counselor
Coursework and fields of study you can expect to engage in if you choose to pursue peace, conflict and justice:
As with any university, courses for a specific major might differ from institution to institution. Nevertheless, here is a list of courses or course concepts that you might study.
- Violence & Nonviolence
- International Politics
- History of Global Poverty
- Ethics & Morality
- War & Peace in the Modern World
- Religion, Conflict and Peace
Other things to keep in mind:
Many universities choose to pair lectures and course concepts with service learning and internship opportunities. For example, in my third year of study at university, I will have the ability to take part in a service learning module through the peace, conflict and justice program that will pair me with a grassroots or non-profit organization. Such avenues of engaging in experiential learning would help students learn to apply their academic training to real-life scenarios.
Some universities might also offer students the opportunity of either majoring or specializing/concentrating in peace, conflict and justice studies. I am personally majoring in the program, and will also be pursuing a major in Human Geography and a minor in Geographic Information Systems. I am quite interested in being able to study both majors while understanding the intersection between both fields.
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