New PACS Faculty Member Brings a Restorative Justice Focus

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Conrad Grebel University College announces the appointment of Dr. Johonna McCants-Turner to a tenure-track faculty position as Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) at Grebel, beginning July 1, 2021. McCants-Turner currently serves as Assistant Professor of Restorative Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University’s (EMU) Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.

“I am delighted that Johonna McCants-Turner will be joining the PACS Department at Grebel and the University of Waterloo,” announced Nathan Funk, Chair of PACS. “Her research and experience as co-director of the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice at EMU put her on the leading edge of the restorative and transformative justice field. Her innovative scholarship draws together insights from women’s studies and critical race theory as well as theology, and years of experience with grassroots advocacy and organizing enliven her teaching.”

“As an award winning teacher, Dr. McCants-Turner is a reflective educator who brings a spirit for justice, thoughtful content, and compassionate pedagogy to the classroom,” said Troy Osborne, Dean. “In her courses, students will learn to reflect critically and empathetically on the complexities of peacebuilding and the quest for justice.” Working with both graduates and undergraduates at Grebel, she will teach core and elective courses and will be a key participant in the emerging Restorative Justice diploma that is under review for PACS.

Professor Johonna McCants-Turner, photo by
“My passion for peace is grounded in the idea, so eloquently stated by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that ‘true peace is not merely the absence of tension, it is the presence of justice,’” explained McCants-Turner. “Furthermore, in pursuit of a transnational solidarity that connects local struggles with global movements, I am inspired by the freedom dreams of people around the world who are prefiguring the world they dare to imagine in the ways that they live, love, and create in the day-to-day.”

“I am looking forward to joining a community of scholars and educators that share so many of my own values, commitments and passions,” added McCants-Turner. “I’m energized by the PACS Department’s value for bold vision and audacious imagination, commitment to sustained interrogation of power relations, and passion for the vital roles of faith, spirituality, and the arts within participatory, bottom-up approaches to peacebuilding and social change.”

McCants-Turner has a PhD in American Studies from the University of Maryland, where she focused on an interdisciplinary approach to urban peace studies, carceral studies, women’s studies, and contemporary social movements. She has graduate certificates in Women’s Studies from the University of Maryland and Urban Youth Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary. She has published essays, articles, and chapters in the areas of faith-based peacebuilding, restorative justice, and transformative justice, and is a sought-after speaker and presenter. Her early career included work as a youth and community organizer, public school teacher, and founding director of a grassroots youth leadership development and peacebuilding organization.  

“Johonna will bring a remarkable blend of excellent pedagogy, impactful research, and real-world experience to our PACS program,” said President Marcus Shantz. “Grebel’s values, mission and vision are close to her heart. We look forward to welcoming her to Waterloo, and to introducing her to our wider community.”

Founded in 1963 by Ontario Mennonites, Grebel’s mission is to seek wisdom, nurture faith and pursue justice and peace in service to church and society. Inspired by Mennonite Anabaptist beliefs, the mission of PACS is to educate students to pursue peace and justice in the context of diverse investigations into the origins and nature of conflict and violence. The program strives to educate, invigorate and mobilize students to make use of conceptual and/or practical models to imagine and build a culture of peace between individuals, in our communities, among nations and around the world.

Photo by Brooke Anderson