March 28, 2016- An exciting new initiative is underway at George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, VA to take what the students are learning about conflict resolution in the classroom and turn it into action on campus and beyond.

Patriots 4 Peace is a new student-led club, inspired by the resources of the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Global Peacebuilding Center.  The club was created after student Mena Ayazi learned about the Peace Club Starter Kit, which provides a framework for students interested in peacebuilding to engage with others in shared learning and action. In January 2016, Mena (who is the club president) and Vice President Shauna Triplett came to the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) to learn more about the work of the Global Peacebuilding Center and what other peace clubs were doing. They were encouraged to meet with other students on campus at GMU to discuss what topics were important to them and to build the club’s agenda around those ideas.

Mena, whose parents left Afghanistan after the 1979 Soviet invasion, grew up listening to stories of that war and was intrigued by the effect the conflict had on her family. Now majoring in conflict analysis and resolution at GMU, Mena has dedicated herself to developing the skills and knowledge base to make conflict management her career. Shauna, a global affairs major with a concentration in inequality and responses, is inspired to take action after studying the impact that conflicts and injustice have on people and communities.

The club has had a very busy first few months:

After spending January getting organized, Patriots for Peace selected themes to guide their actions each month. February’s focus was on the End It Movement to end modern day slavery, when the Club sought to spread the word by hosting a kiosk at the largest student center on campus. Shauna reflects: “Many students and professors approached the kiosk to discuss what defines modern day slavery and the best approach to end it. I learned a lot myself about different perspectives and potential solutions. It was the first time that I felt like we made a difference by raising awareness and education in our student body.” 

Patriots for Peace March events flyer
Patriots for Peace March events flyer

In March, the focus was on international women’s issues. Mena and Shauna attended the USIP public event with former First Lady Laura Bush and the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council and will take their findings back to their next club meeting.  Patriots for Peace has also partnered with the Women and Gender Studies Program and Housing and Residential Life, to hold a feminine care product drive for Afghan women to help make a small difference in their everyday life.

Now, Patriots for Peace is also working to create a College Toolkit, based on the Peace Club Starter Kit.

“Through the development of a College Toolkit, we can start putting together a coalition of college and university students dedicated to peacebuilding, “Mena stated. She added, “I love seeing the excitement that comes from students who hear about the club for the first time. That energy is exactly what I believe will make this and other peace clubs a success.”

Shauna hopes that the club will provide an opportunity for the students to channel their enthusiasm and promote peace: “All it takes is a little bit of passion and action to make a difference,” Shauna commented. “In the short amount of time that Patriots for Peace has been around, I know that we have made a difference. As we grow, I know that we can do even more.”

Patriots for Peace first meeting
Patriots for Peace first meeting

In the fall, this Peace Club will be a registered student organization on campus at GMU. Stay tuned for further updates. And read our recent profile of another Peace Club initiative – this time in Chicago at Perspectives Charter Schools.