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Starting with Students, the Peace Industry takes Root at Grebel

Thursday, June 23, 2016

While exploring ideas of peace, war, nonviolence, conflict resolution, mediation, human rights, development, and social justice, Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) students often wonder where their degree will lead after graduation. While many graduates gravitate toward careers in law, international development, governmental policy, and teaching, more and more students are embracing an entrepreneurial spirit and are creating their own jobs in the peace industry.

“We’ve found that PACS students are forward thinkers who envision the world as a better place - always thinking about ways to improve the future and quality of life,” explained Lowell Ewert, Director of PACS at the University of Waterloo. “This energy can be transferred into their creative drive to change things. And what better way to do this than through peace innovation? You don’t study peace and conflict because you are okay with the status quo.”

The MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement (CPA) is a unique space and working community located at Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo. The Centre stands as a bridge between campus and community, academics and practice, and faith and justice. In this unique position, student engagement is vital to the CPA, bringing energy, new ideas, and urgency to make the world a more peaceful place.

Waterloo’s ethos of experiential learning reaches beyond tech start-ups and underpins social innovation too.  Participating groups in the CPA have hired 13 students this summer, including co-op students, summer students, and paid interns from across the faculties. Students in Fine Arts, Philosophy, Peace and Conflict Studies, Public Health, Urban Planning, Engineering, Computer Science, Math, and Global Studies are learning valuable skills and techniques that will help them find their place in the peace industry – whether these students end up in an existing job or create their own.

This summer, the CPA has partnered with St. Paul’s GreenHouse to provide employment and development for selected first work term students as a “Social Entrepreneur in Training.” After a comprehensive training week, these passionate and determined students are matched to employers who provide a taste of the start-up culture. “It’s great to see so many students making contributions to the work of our participants and to our community on the fourth floor!” remarked CPA Director Paul Heidebrecht. “They are fast learners, and their learning is quickly shared with others.”

“As a Peace and Conflict Studies student, I have always felt extremely invested in many social justice issues, but I’ve often been uncertain as to how I can tackle these issues proactively,” reflected Kieran Klassen, a co-op student working for the second time at Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement. “This was a chance to work for an organization with which I could really see myself making a difference and learning some relevant lessons and skills. Witnessing Tamarack’s commitment to the projects and initiatives we are currently working on has given me a much more realistic and tangible understanding of how individuals can make a substantial, positive impact on society.”

A look in the Epp Peace Incubator demonstrates how PACS alumni are leading the way in creating innovative, peace-related initiatives. With projects focusing on diverse areas such as peace education in local and global schools, young adult engagement, land mines, and aging, these ideas are reaching into broad areas of society. The peace industry is part of the economic activity in Waterloo, creating jobs and creating a more peaceful world.

Founded in 1963 by Ontario Mennonites, Conrad Grebel University College is affiliated with the University of Waterloo. The College’s mission is “to seek wisdom, nurture faith and pursue justice and peace in service to church and society.” Grebel is home to the oldest peace studies program in Canada.

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