Graduate Education and Professional Practice in International Peace and Conflict

Published: 
August 9, 2010
By: 
Nike Carstarphen, Craig Zelizer, Robert Harris, and David J. Smith

This report, requested by the United States Institute of Peace as part of its response to the focus on education and training provided for in the legislation that created it, examines the match between graduate academic programs in international peace and conflict, and the needs of organizations and agencies that hire individuals for conflictfocused work in the field.

Summary

  • Graduate-level academic institutions are not adequately preparing students for careers in international peace and conflict management. Curricula need to incorporate more applied skills, cross-sectoral coursework, and field-experience opportunities.
  • Unlike most faculty, students, and alumni, employers see substantial room for improvement in preparing students for the field.
  • Overseas experience is, for employers, the most valuable asset.
  • General project management skills—program planning and design, monitoring and evaluation, computer literacy, report writing skills, budgeting, staff management, research skills, grant writing, and knowledge of the funding and policy world—and cross-cultural competencies and language skills are critical.
  • International peace and conflict management practices increasingly overlap with more traditional work, such as human rights, humanitarian issues, and development programming.
  • Employers want candidates who have a holistic understanding of international conflict work, specialized knowledge and skills, practical know-how, and political savvy, yet often fail to grasp what academic programs are in fact teaching students to prepare them for the field.
  • Academic programs need to strengthen their outreach and interaction with employers and to market the value of their programs.
  • To better prepare themselves for the field, recent graduates and alumni are seeking to increase their applied education, field experience, project management skills, mentoring, and career guidance.

About the Report

This report, requested by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) as part of its response to the focus on education and training provided for in the legislation that created it, examines the match between graduate academic programs in international peace and conflict, and the needs of organizations and agencies that hire individuals for conflict focused work in the field.

Nike Carstarphen is an independent consultant and a cofounder of the Alliance for Conflict Transformation. Craig Zelizer is the associate director of the Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution Program at Georgetown University and a cofounder of the Alliance for Conflict Transformation. Robert Harris is the conflict management services manager at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration. David J. Smith was previously a senior program officer in the Education and Training Center–Domestic and is currently the National Educational Outreach officer at USIP.

Since its founding in 1984, the Institute’s education and training efforts have been wide-ranging. These efforts include sponsoring the National Peace Essay Contest for U.S. high school students; developing programs on peacebuilding for young people, secondary teachers, and college and university faculty in the United States and in zones of conflict; training civil society actors in conflict resolution approaches; and publishing research on best practices and approaches to teaching about peace. Recently, because of the need to improve peacebuilding practitioner training, the Institute engaged in a major effort to develop a comprehensive program in conflict management designed for professionals resulting in the establishment of the Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding.

August 9, 2010
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