Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Peace and Conflict Studies Program Learning Goals

In this new MA and BA/MA program, we expect students to acquire substantive knowledge, critical and analytic skills, and preparation for further academic work or employment.  The broad objective of this education is to pursue ways to reduce violent conflict and promote justice by means of negotiation and nonviolent action.

Our program is unique among Peace and Conflict Studies for its base in Anthropology and Sociology.  (All of our Core Faculty are from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology).  This is reflected in our three distribution areas: Social and Cultural Bases of Conflict and Cooperation; Violent Conflict; and Nonviolent Social Movements and Recovery from Violence.  Students will take courses in each area, and are expected to learn how different trajectories of cooperative or conflictive actions feed into violent or non-violent outcomes.  Core Courses reflect the expertise of existing faculty members. Additionally, a wide range of elective courses will be designated from our multidisciplinary Associate Faculty in Newark and New Brunswick.

Core Courses on Social and Cultural Bases of Conflict and Cooperation are “Comparative and International Education: Development in Peace, Conflict, and Human Rights,” “Gender and Migration: A Global Perspective,” “Environmental Conflict,” and “Peace, Conflict, Security, and Development.” Elective courses (given by Core Faculty but not Core Courses, in other Rutgers graduate programs) include courses on conflict and cooperation related to religion, gender, race, social identity, and inequality.  At the end of the program, students will have developed a critical understanding of the sociological, historical, political and cultural sources of contemporary forms of violent and nonviolent conflict. 

Core Courses on Violent Conflict are: “Irregular War: History, Culture, and Theory,”  “Urban Space and Urban Conflict,” and “Culture, Political Violence, and Globalization.”

Existing electives in this area include courses on genocide, anthropological theory on war, inter-state conflict, political violence, terrorism and security.  At the end of the program, students will have developed a critical understanding of how and why some conflicts end up in destructive forms of social and political violence.

Nonviolent Social Movements and Recovery from Violence Core Courses are: “Transitional Justice, Recovery, and Legacies of Violence,” “Strategic Nonviolent Conflict,” and “Conflict and Resolution.”  Existing elective course include civil resistance, human rights, and international law.  We hope to add faculty who can teach on theories of conflict transformation and on building sustainable peace.  At the end of the program, students will have developed a critical understanding of how societies develop nonviolent means of basic social change, recover from violence, and prevent it from reoccurring in the future. 

Students are expected to become theoretically adept and analytically sophisticated.  Every distribution course includes critical examination of existing theories relevant to those topics.  Besides the distribution courses noted above, there is a requirement for at least one theory and one methods course.  Theory can be from sociology or anthropology (both offered as overviews within the program) or other disciplines through Associate Faculty.  Both quantitative and qualitative methods courses will be offered.  Within our Core Courses, students will be challenged to do independent research, to critically examine existing perspectives, to analyze actual conflict situations, and to master both the verbal and written presentation of ideas.

Students are also expected to acquire a wide substantive knowledge.  The majority of our Core Courses rely heavily on case studies from around the world.  Students who attain an MA will be very familiar with key cross-cultural cases pertaining to the question of peace or violence in the historical and contemporary world.  By gaining both analytic skills and substantive knowledge, students will become more able to think and act as global citizens, and to offer valuable expertise to potential employers.  These skills would include research, program evaluation, policy development, and communication of results in a clear way.

Both intellectual understanding and employment prospects are increased by hands-on experience.  Our students may either enter the program with such experience, (e.g. having worked in a NGO dealing with issues related to the mission of the program); or may acquire the experience through internships.  While not mandatory, engaging in internship opportunities is strongly recommended. 

We do not anticipate that many students will move from our program into roles of professional mediators or policy makers.  Instead, they are being prepared for two possible trajectories: continued academic work toward a PhD or other degree; or success in acquiring/excelling in non-academic employment.  Toward the first goal, students will be thoroughly prepared for the most rigorous Doctoral program.  Toward the second goal, they will have acquired the ability to approach and analyze any potential conflict situation, understand its underlying causes, and identify possibilities for averting violence.  A student’s future plans and preparation for them will be on the agenda of every meeting with advisors.  We also plan to develop an active network of our graduates who may offer advice and opportunities for new students.

Whichever post-graduate route is anticipated, all students will learn important basic skills: to critically interrogate past and current theories and descriptions about concrete situations; to conduct thorough research on a myriad of possible issues and situations; to analyze them in ways that make practical action possible; to develop the ability to comprehend complex sociocultural dynamics; to acquire the ability to move across very different political and cultural contexts drawing comparative lessons while respecting unique qualities and cultural differentiation; and to present ideas both orally and in writing that can be understood by non-academics, from the public to policy makers.

Evaluation of Learning Goals

Primary evaluation will be in the courses themselves.  Every course will have some mixture of writing, exam taking, and discussion or oral presentation.  Internships or experiential credit will be approved only with an agreement to produce a substantive written report of learning.

A final, three part examination (each part graded by two faculty members, Core or Associate) will include written answers to essay questions for each of our three distribution areas framed to show critical and analytic skills, and substantive knowledge about global situations. 

Besides these objection evaluations, we believe the best way to ensure that each student is meeting the program learning objectives is by personal involvement with our Core Faculty.  Incoming students and faculty will become acquainted in an opening “Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies,” in which each Faculty member discusses their interests and Core Course topics.  For each presentation, students will be assigned readings, and produce a three-page reaction paper on readings and class discussions to be evaluated by that professor.  This will also enable us to identify potential problems such as comprehension and writing skills, early enough in the student’s enrollment to provide effective advisement.

Besides performance, and key part of our program is close consultation with by advisors.  Students will be assigned an initial advisor bases on their apparent interests, but these are subject to review and adjustment. An important part of ongoing evaluation will be communication among faculty.  After every Core Course (we expect 3-4 to be offered each semester), the Professor will communicate with each MA PCS student’s advisor, appraising them of that student’s performance according to our learning expectations, including areas that need improvement.  Before the next semester starts, students will be required to meet with their advisor to discuss what they have accomplished, and what they need to work on.  At the end of every academic year, the Core Faculty will have a meeting devoted to discussing individual students’ progress in the program.