Contact Us
Alison Cook-Sather
Director of Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice Studies
acooksat@brynmawr.edu
Bryn Mawr College
101 North Merion Ave
Bryn Mawr PA
19010-2899

610-526-5396

Why Pursue a Concentration in Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice Studies?

“I decided to concentrate in Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice because I wanted a relatively formal way to inform others on my work throughout my time at Bryn Mawr.  Coming to college I knew that I wanted to study international relations with a focus on international human rights, but obviously, something that specific isn’t offered as a major.  This concentration allows me to explore that part of my academic life, as well as provide new alleys and forums for me to delve deeper into what I learn about in my classes, books I read, and other experiences I have at Bryn Mawr and elsewhere.  This concentration has become a large component of my time at Bryn Mawr as I take time revising and rethinking my rationale.  The rationale is the evidence each of the concentrators provides for their concentration.  I believe that being able to defend what you are doing and why you are doing it, to anybody, either on paper or in person, is one of the best reasons to pursue this concentration.” 

“In my freshman year, I became involved with Bryn Mawr’s Social Justice Partnership Program.  The topics we covered and the dialogues we engaged in began to permeate my academic thoughts.  I was drawn to the idea that all forms of communication are social, and therefore both come from, and result in, different perspectives.  I began to think of ‘conflict,’ as the meeting of those different perspectives, and ‘justice,’ as the possibility of equal value for each perspective.  This concentration emerged as a way to frame my academic experience with the idea that all voices are not given equal weight when they come into conflict with more powerful social forces.  What is so appealing to me about the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice Studies concentration is that it is intentionally unrestricted.  Concentrators are required to form rational arguments as to why certain courses apply to the goal of educating oneself in conflict resolution and global justice.  Since I tend to define these concepts broadly, I was attracted to the idea that I would be able to tailor my coursework around considering marginal perspectives, or considering the effects of conflict on certain populations.”

“The themes of peace, conflict and social justice have always been important to me.  At Bryn Mawr, I found the opportunity to academically explore these concepts that I felt were so relevant and important to my development, not only as a student, but also as an individual.  Here, my primary steps in working on Social Justice initiatives were through conversations in the Social Justice Partnership Program.  The conversations that I had through SJPP were some of the most invigorating and inspiring moments of my freshmen year.  I was intrigued by the conversations, community, and connection that was fostered through the dialogue, and sought more of it in other forums. The concentration allows me to actively pursue and have these kinds of dialogue, while also giving me a place to explore what these themes mean for me as an individual.”

“As I began to settle in academically, and chose a major, I enjoyed the intellectual challenge that linguistics provided, but I found myself searching for a way to connect my academic experience to my commitment to social justice work.   The Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice Studies concentration provided the perfect outlet for me to hold myself personally and academically accountable to my desire to work toward social justice. Pursuing this concentration has allowed me to tailor my academic experience to reflect my desire to make social justice a core theme that unifies my studies. I also liked the self-driven nature of this concentration.  I enjoy the flexibility that it offers in terms of course selection—I was able to find and pursue courses in linguistics and other disciplines that address and provide varied insights into social justice issues.  I feel lucky to have an advisor who encourages me to chart my own path through the concentration.  Our bi-semester group meetings, and other informal conversations I’ve had with my fellow concentrators have given me lots of opportunity for reflection and discussion.   Pursuing this concentration helps me to establish an academic identity for myself that reflects who I strive to be as a citizen of the world.”

How is this concentration different from other concentrations?

“One of the aspects of this concentration that sets it apart from most other departmental concentrations and minors at Bryn Mawr and Haverford is the requirement that each student develop a rationale for her/his course of study.  The rationale is an ongoing document that is updated by the student as he/she progresses through the curriculum.  For me, developing the rationale forced me to think critically about each course in my concentration/minor and articulate how that course fit into the overall purpose of my study.” 

“The format of the concentration is one of the things that I appreciate and value most.  For me, the true beauty of the concentration is that it fosters independent thinking while still providing a close-working community that serves as a support system and a means of analytical guidance. The ongoing revision of the rationale is very beneficial because it allows us to track our growing and evolving interests.” 

“The structure of the concentration requires a great deal of self-motivation.  I think this is an important experience for college students to have, but I also realize that it takes more effort to be self-directed than it does to follow a prescriptive course plan.  The challenges of writing a meaningful rationale, designing a culminating experience, and drawing connections between courses and extracurricular projects are made easier by having a support network.  It is critical to meet twice a semester with other concentrators to reaffirm the group’s commitment to building a unique academic experience.  Additionally, we are able to share with one another methods of writing, arguing, and revising that pertain to the concentration, which perhaps aren’t as relevant to other peers’ experiences.”