2019 Notre Dame Student Peace Conference Celebrates Inclusive Peacebuilding

The 2019 University of Notre Dame Student Peace Conference drew over 200 attendees from 41 different colleges and universities across the United States and Canada. The conference, a signature event of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, is an annual gathering organized by students and for students. Its mission is to provide space for graduate and undergraduate students to dialogue about peacebuilding, social justice, and conflict transformation.

The conference focused on the theme, "Expanding Circles: Peace in a Polarized Age?"

Participants had a chance to submit responses to the question, "What does inclusive peacebuilding mean to you?" Responses were compiled into a mural that was displayed throughout the weekend.

“We understood that we had power that had an ability to change the landscape, to change the world even...We reminded ourselves we were fighting the core of injustice, not the people who have perpetrated it.We were fighting the NRA, we were fighting corruption and the systems that put it in place, not the people who become victims to it, not the people who have subscribed to a system that they don’t know an alternative to.”

This year's keynote speaker was Delaney Tarr, a founding member of the March For Our Lives movement created by students and alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after the tragic 2018 shooting that killed 17 people. The movement's mission statement says, "We cannot allow the normalization of gun violence to continue. We must create a safe and compassionate nation for our youth to grow up in."

"When we were thinking about a keynote speaker, having a student as a keynote seemed logical since this is a student-led conference. There are so many incredible speakers with established careers that could talk about this topic, but with this conference we have this opportunity to do something a little different and to hear from a woman, a student, and a survivor."

Madeleine Thompson, conference planning committee co-chair, on why the committee selected Tarr to offer this year's keynote address.

Throughout the weekend, 53 student presenters shared their research via panel discussions and paper presentations over the course of seven breakout sessions. Presentation topics included migration policies at the U.S.-Mexico border, mass atrocity prevention, violence in social change movements, intersectional justice, gender in peacebuilding, and nonviolent conflict resolution techniques, among others.

Friday night featured a screening of the 2016 film "Under the Gun," which examines the debate around gun control and gun violence in the United States.

"The conference was an overwhelming success in my eyes. It effectively connected theoretical discussions of conflict, polarization, and peace with case-specific application through presentations, workshops, roundtables, and films. This year’s conference reminded each and every one of us that we have power: power to make a change, power to influence, and power to inspire."

Monica Montgomery, conference planning committee co-chair

Clockwise from top left: Members of the conference planning committee; conference attendees network during a break; conference attendees received mugs and stickers bearing the conference logo; and a participant asks a follow-up question after Tarr's keynote address.

About the Kroc Institute: Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute, part of the Keough School of Global Affairs, is one of the world’s principal centers for the study of the causes of violent conflict and strategies for sustainable peace.

All photos by Barbara Johnson for the University of Notre Dame/Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

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