$100K Donner Grant Promotes Development of Peace Researchers and Practitioners
“Give Peace a Chance” is much more than a slogan in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UMass Amherst. In 2002 a $2.5 million anonymous gift and $500,000 in start-up funds created the Psychology of Peace and the Prevention of Violence Program. And now, a $100,000 grant from the William H. Donner Foundation will help assure that this unique doctoral program—the only one in the country—attains its academic, research and intervention objectives.
The young and developing interdisciplinary field of peace psychology is committed to developing an understanding of the roots and prevention of violence between groups. In areas such as ethno-political warfare, mass killing, genocide, and terrorism, students research the origins and prevention of violence, study ways of promoting cooperation and peaceful human relations, and develop understanding of and interventions for violence prevention and peace promotion around the world. Increasingly, policy will be developed based on this knowledge.
The Psychology of Peace and the Prevention of Violence Program at UMass Amherst—the only PhD concentration of its kind anywhere—is training leaders by drawing from psychology and a broad range of related fields. In its first two years, the program selected six students from five countries and 69 applicants. The plan is to reach a full capacity of 12-15 students by admitting three a year.
Ervin Staub, professor of psychology who will be retiring soon, is founding director of the program. An internationally recognized authority on youth and mob violence, genocide, and the role of bystanders, he is author of The Psychology of Good and Evil: Why Children, Adults and Groups Help and Harm Others and The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence. Says Staub, “My hope is that over time peace psychology will significantly contribute to creating peaceful, harmonious, caring relationships within and between groups. Currently, we are establishing relationships with foundations, NGOs and government agencies in regions around the world where our students will be active as researchers and practitioners.” Two new faculty appointments will further the development of the program.
Since 1998 Staub has been conducting projects on healing, reconciliation and the prevention of new violence in Rwanda. Also, supported by the John Templeton Foundation, the United States Institute for Peace, USAID, and others, he has created a training program for police officers in the wake of the Rodney King beating incident and led workshops for teachers on creating school environments that promote caring and reduce bullying and other forms of aggression. The 1990 recipient of the Otto Klineberg Intercultural and International Prize of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Staub is past president of the Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict and Violence of the Peace Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association (1999-2000), and the International Society for Political Psychology (2000-01).
After Staub’s retirement, Ilana Shapiro, assistant professor of psychology at UMass Amherst, will be acting director of the Psychology of Peace and the Prevention of Violence Program. She holds a doctorate in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University, and a doctorate in social psychology from Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. A cofounder of the Alliance for Conflict Transformation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building peace based in Alexandria, Virginia, Shapiro is particularly interested in relationships between structural and direct violence, altruism born of suffering and moral courage, and the role of civil society in peace building in U.S., Central and East European, and Middle East communities. She is the author of Training for Racial Equity and Inclusion: A Guide to Selected Programs, published by the Aspen Institute in 2002, and several articles in Negotiation Journal and Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
October 7, 2005