George Mason University
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George Mason University

School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution: Pioneers in the Field, 1982-2017

by Adina Friedman

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  • Published Date: October 2017
  • Publisher: Mason Publishing Group


Since its founding more than thirty years ago, the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) has been a pioneer and global leader in its field. The first educational institution in North America to offer post-graduate education in conflict analysis and resolution, it is a unique community in which innova- tive scholarship and practice is conducted by a diverse, multi-disciplinary group of faculty, students, staff, alumni, and partners. S-CAR’s mission is to improve our understanding of deep-rooted social, political, and cultural conflicts so that more effective methods of resolving them can be developed and implemented. Individually and collectively, S-CAR’s community members are committed to generating theory, research, and practice that assist conflict parties in resolving conflicts peacefully and sustainably.

S-CAR’s work spans generations, disciplines, and continents. It is recognized internationally as one of the world’s foremost academic institutions in the field of conflict and peace studies.

In 1981 S-CAR was created as the first graduate program in Conflict Analysis & Resolution in North America, and in 2011 it became the first School of Conflict Analysis & Resolution, offering a complete spectrum of undergraduate degrees (BA and BS), graduate degrees (MS and Ph.D.), and Certificate programs. Over this period, S-CAR has trained and graduated thousands of students in the field, representing dozens of countries from all regions of the world. Cummulatively, S-CAR faculty, students, and alumni, have published a vast number of influential books, articles, and research papers on cutting edge topics related to various dimensions of conflict and conflict resolution. Many of these are seminal works in the field and have been cited widely and assigned in courses at programs and universities in the USA and worldwide.

S-CAR faculty, students, and alumni have played a positive and practical role in the mitigation, resolution or transformation of a wide variety of conflicts—large and small, domestic, intra-state and international, many involving violence. Their activities have positively impacted the lives of many thousands of people across the globe.

S-CAR faculty and alumni have helped establish and shape dozens of conflict resolution and related programs in colleges and universities across the US and globally. S-CAR students and alumni have founded scores of NGOs and alliances dealing with conflict analysis and resolution. S-CAR faculty and alumni regularly appear in print and broadcast media in the US and internationally, sharing their insights and expertise in the field.

S-CAR alumni actively contribute to politics and policy-making around the world, by participating in local and national governments, working in the US Department of State or other ministries of foreign affairs, appearing before the US Senate and the United Nations, and in some cases running for political office. S-CAR has hosted visiting scholars and practitioners who have made sig- nificant contributions to theory, research, and practice in the field.

Philosophically, S-CAR views conflict as a generic phenomenon with multiple expressions and dimensions, and as a normal and integral part of human interaction. While the effects of conflict can be both positive and negative, the School attempts to generate research and practice that maximize the creative, positive qualities of conflict, while minimizing conflict’s destructive and negative aspects. It strives to engender social, institutional, and global relationships that are more resilient and able to handle conflicts more efficiently.

Students come to S-CAR from every corner of the country and the globe, bringing invaluable experiences and insights of their own which serve to enrich S-CAR and what it has to offer. Since 1981, the School has graduated thousands of students from diverse backgrounds representing dozens of countries and scores of ethnic, cultural, and linguistic groups. Occasionally, a given cohort may include representatives of different parties to the same conflict. At S-CAR, they are able to meet and interact as equals and apply their knowledge and skills towards resolving—or at least seriously tackling—their own conflicts.

For more than three decades, S-CAR has been home to an extraordinary collection of faculty, staff, and students, and has attracted researchers and prac- titioners seeking innovative, effective answers to vitally important questions. At the same time, it has produced and trained hundreds of practitioners and researchers who continue to pursue such work, disseminating it in academic, practical, and policy-making circles around the globe.

Many new ideas generated by S-CAR faculty, students, or visiting schol- ars have had a profound effect. Some have transformed how the School sees itself and its mission; others have transformed the way people beyond academia have come to understand the world around them and serious social conflicts in particular. The range of innovative approaches runs from theories of basic human needs, social identity, cultural change, and historical complexity to the role of narrative in conflict, the sources of religious violence, the dynamics of peace processes, new concepts of counter-terrorism, and responses to structural violence.

In connection with these conceptual efforts, which have generated a mas- sive analytical literature, S-CAR faculty, students, and alumni are continuously engaged in evolving conflict resolution practice. They regularly intervene as mediators or facilitators in serious conflicts around the world, ranging from local conflicts in communities, workplaces, and schools to inter-communal and international conflicts such as those in Liberia, Congo, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Israel-Palestine, the South China Sea, the Philippines, Colombia, Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Basque Country, the Caucasian nations, Ukraine, Sudan, Kenya, Cyprus, Bosnia, Nepal, Indonesia, and more.

Furthermore, S-CAR graduates have created new programs, founded NGOs, influenced existing organizations and programs from within, appeared in the media, and advised social activists and policymakers. The School’s alumni work through institutions ranging from the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and other executive agencies, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. Institute of Peace to non-governmental organizations such as the Brookings Institution, Search for Common Ground, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, and the American Friends Service Committee. They have provided staffers and consultants for multi-national organizations such as the World Bank, the European Union, International Alert, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as government and private agencies in scores of nations around the globe.  In a number of countries, such as Tanzania and Turkey, alumni are directly involved in politics as members of political parties, officials, and even presidential candidates. In other cases, such as Saudi Arabia’s, they have represented their countries at the United Nations and on international commissions.

The media presence of S-CAR faculty, students, and alumni has been striking. Media outlets benefitting from their contributions as writers and inter- viewees include The New York Times, The Washington Post, Financial Times, Foreign Policy, Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Global Post, The National Interest, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Tribune, NBC News, CNN News, Fox Cable News, Aljazeera (English and Arabic), Al Arabiya, The Daily Star, Gulf News, Reuters, AFP, the Associated Press, the BBC, CCTV, CTV, the Real News, and Russia Today, to name just a few news sources.

S-CAR’s outreach to the world of education is equally noteworthy. Faculty members and alumni have been represented in academic programs throughout the US and the world, significantly impacting the academic and professional directions these institutions—or specific programs within them—have taken. Pertinent examples include American University’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution program, Eastern Mennonite’s Conflict Transformation program, Middlebury’s Monterey Institute of International Studies, Salisbury University’s Center for Conflict Resolution, the University of Baltimore’s Program on Negotiation and Conflict Management, the Conflict and Peace Studies program at the University of California, San Diego, and Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution program. Internationally, S-CAR personnel have been instrumental in helping to establish conflict analysis and resolution degree programs at Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey and the University of Malta in Valletta, Malta, as well as on the George Mason University campus in Songdo, Korea.

The brief history of more than thirty years of achievement that follows highlights some of those activities and achievements and looks forward to the next thirty years of work striving to make the world a more peaceful place, better able to handle the conflicts that inevitably face us.




Topics: Education