Below is a blog post submitted by David J. Smith, who decided to answer a question he frequently gets, “How do I explain what peace studies is about?” Hopefully this post will help you answer that question!

“Get a Job” is the reframe from 1957 Silhouettes’ song of the same name.[1] Now I suppose many of you reading this blog are much too young to know the song, but it’s message resonates today.   The need to find work, a career, a gig – whatever you might call it –  is more important than ever before.  Undergraduate education (particularly liberal arts based), where once focusing on careers was not important (we focused on “enlightenment”) has changed.  Today, college students know from the first day of college that studying in an area that will lead to a meaningful (and well-paying) career is essential.  Often a large student debt ($37,172 is the national average) can be an uncomfortable reminder of this.  At breaks from school, parents might not so much ask about what you have learned about Plato or Newton or Impressionism than about the internship or student teaching (my daughter is an education major) that needs to be done before graduation.  Aligning learning with career opportunities is an essential objective of college faculty and advisors.  This then presents a central question for the student studying peace:  Does a peace related degree or field of study provide a gateway to employment?  Will it help me “get a job”?

As a career coach, I am asked this question frequently.  And my answer is unequivocally yes… but.   As the world is changing and the problems and challenges we face become more complex, having aptitudes and awareness that are acquired through peace and conflict resolution related studies have applications to a range of fields and areas.  But many can’t see that.  And that is the problem for the recent graduate.  He or she needs to be prepared to make the case for the relevancy of their study to prospective employers (as well as their parents!)  They have to be prepared to “teach” about the field in some cases.

Reductionism is often derided because it oversimplifies complexity where complexity is important to understanding.  But breaking down an abstract and imprecise concept like peace can be helpful in getting others to understand what peace means in a practical way.   The manifestation of peace in outcomes such as social improvement (like the reduction of violence) is an important way to get others to understand “how” peace works. Developing the language of “application” to serious social community and global challenges like global warming, extremism, community violence, economic inequity, or xenophobia is the key.  Learn to explain to someone what peace does and how it works. Rather than saying “peace approaches bring about improved relations” discuss a specific project or initiative where that actually took place and describe the specific strategies that were used like community dialogue or using local assets and strengths, and what role you can play in that.   What are your specific skills?  Answer, not “I can help bring people together” rather “I know how to apply for grants and find resources can be used to improve community life and here is how I would go about doing it.”

In a recent edition of The Peace Chronicle (Spring/Fall 2017), I addressed the issue of how to explain what a peace studies major is studying on a resume or job application.  My response: describe your studies in a project based way.  Describe a specific paper/activity/project you were involved in.   Rather than defining peace studies, illustrate what the specific contributions of your experience might be.

Granted, this is not so easy.   And it assumes that you have the opportunity as a student to engage in the application of your learning.   If you are in a program of study now, make sure to seek out applications of your learning.   Consider every project or paper you work on as something that might provide insight to an employer as to what you can do.  Talk to your instructors about taking papers that are more theoretical and making them more applied.  Think about how these applications relate to solving important issues of change.  That is the key to making your case and getting a job.

David J. Smith is the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace (IAP 2016).  He can be reached at  More about his work can be found at

[1]  The first verse of the song is:

Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip
Sha na na na, sha na na na na
Sha na na na, sha na na na na
Sha na na na, sha na na na na
Sha na na na, sha na na na na
Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip
Mum mum mum mum mum mum
Get a job, sha na na na, sha na na na na

“Get a Job,” Robinson Recording, written by Beal, Edwards, Lewin & Horton (1957)


CREATIVE TRANSFORMATION OF CONFLICT: Case Study of Makungu High School in Bukavu /DRCongo by Christian Walungwa Bitela

I have received an article displaying peace building in action from Christian Walungwa Bitela that I thought would interest those of you who are reading this blog. Christian is deeply interested in the peace building field and is working to promote peace in Bukavu /DRCongo. His email is if you would like to contact him about his work. The work that he is doing is something that will always be necessary in our world and is definitely something that a peace studies student could pursue after college.

blog picture 1


This new approach of resolving conflict peacefully has been edited by Professors Cynthia E. Cohen, Roberto Gutérrez Varea and Polly O. Walker, Volume I and II (June and December 2011).  For us, we have organized workshops with teachers and pupils in order to strengthen this approach in the Congolese contexts. The local media were also conveyed to cover workshops held in Bukavu/DRC.    The main objective was focusing to the appropriation of target groups of this approach  of  promoting  the concepts of peace by organizing  peace clubs  in which pupils  and teachers will discuss some themes related to peace and it will be covered by the local media in order to extend the peace  messages.  

Furthermore, the Acting Together resources focus the stories of creative and courageous artists and peace builders working in zones of violent , and demonstrate how performances of many kinds are used to support non violent resistance to abuses of authority , re-humanization of enemies , and reconciliation in the aftermath of violent conflict . This is the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in which we are living. It is a country in which is facing of different challenges such as armed conflict, youth manipulations, and land conflict and so on.   

blog picture 2 

Pupils of Makungu are learning acting together principles in order to avoid conflict and to promote peace in their milieu. This workshop has been covered by the local media in Bukavu/DRC.   

 We think it is wise to define several items. This will help teachers and pupils to be familiar with new items. Christian W. Bitela( 2016 :6 ) highlighted that  conflict can be positive and negative, and that conflict can actually helppeople and communities to grow if managed well.  In this way William J. Kreidler(1996:1-3) argues that conflict as normal and natural part of everyone’s life. He added that conflict is simply that disputes and disagreement that occur between people. While we tend to think of conflict as negative only it can also be positive.  Conflict can lead to learning and growth.  In fact, one could agree that without conflict there is no growth or progress, there is only stagnation. It is the constructive use of conflict that allows society to move forward. According to Acting Together Approach (2011:239 vol. II) defines conflict as a means of difference between two or more parties that impacts them in significant way. Conflict can be based on differences in values, power, or access to needed or designed resources. It aims at gaining a better understanding of the context of the conflict and the parties roles’ in it. It added that conflict cycles mean stages through which conflict typically move, which include latent or hidden conflict, emergence or articulation of conflict escalation, stalemate, descalation , resolution , peace building and reconciliation.

As far as Conflict resolution is concerned is a range of methods for addressing conflict that rely on faith in the rationality and fundamental good will of people. Processes of conflict resolution generally include negotiation, mediation and diplomacy. In this way conflict transformation relates the addresses human conflict through non violent approaches that increase mutual understanding and respect. Different scholars denote that conflict transformation is flexible, but in structure and process, and views peace as a continuously evolving and developing qualities of relationships. Deven and Ramaih in Acting Together (2011:255) argues that a creative transformation of conflict is an open window on how artists and practitioners can address ethical dilemma and risks of doing harm. In this view will strength the collaboration between peace building and performance fields.  We think that it wise to say by involving teachers and pupils as we have done at Makungu by playing theaters on peace may resolve some problems in the Congolese contexts. It is quite important to invest in pupils and teachers in this approach may be they used it in their daily life. When we talk about conflict transformation, we refer to fundamental change of human beings such as youth, women and journalists and so on.

 This workshop involves pupils in order to teach them about the reality of violence against women in the UNSCR 1325.  It has been covered by the local media and a journalist was lecturing a theme related to Youth and Journalism in promoting peace in the Congolese Context.    

blog picture 3 

Terms peace building and conflict transformation show that the works are interchangeably aiming at creating change which is not mitigates violence; but also shows the underlying dynamics that characterize and perpetuate a conflict ordinary system. It requires cooperation of several actors of civil society, often for years, decades or generation. Cynthia E.(2011:9) argues that ‘conflict resolution’, ‘peace’ and ‘coexistence’ may have negative connotations in places where they have been used to suppress rather than to understand and address the underlying sources of conflict. Peace building is not an effort to suppress conflicts, but rather an effort to channel ‘the energy directed by conflict in constructive, non violent rather than destructive and violent directions. Peace building is working toward ‘ a world where diversity is embraced for its positive potential, respect for persons is a core value  between different groups . In this way, Conflict transformation requires a change of different stakeholders and it must be a process. We are required to be implicated in this approach so that peace may be effective in all over the world in general and in the DRC in particular.

The meeting of teachers and journalists are reflecting of the mechanism of avoiding conflict which affects the eastern part of the DRC.    

blog picture 4 

The word creativity means a process involving the discovery of new ideas or concepts, or associations of existing ideas or concepts, fueled by the process of either conscious or unconscious insights. In this way, we share the same view with Lederarch( 2011:11) describes the capacity required for the creative transformation of conflict as ‘moral imagination’. It allows individuals to simultaneously stay grounded in the troubles of the real world and be open to the possibilities of a better one.

   To sum up:

 It is important to organize different peace building clubs at schools. 


  1. Ministry of Education (1972-1973): Planning the Education to all p.20 (DRC).
  2. The report of EDS (2007): Education report. DRC
  3. Christian W. Bitela (2016 :6) : A field analysis of the dynamics of conflict in the South Kivu/ DRcongo . Edition Universitaire Européennes  en Allemagne 
  4. William J. Kreidler(1996:1-3): Adventures in peace building. ESR. Cambridge.
  5. Cynthia E. Cohen, Roberto Gutiérrez Varea, Polly O. Walke (2011:239) Acting Together Performance and the creative Transformation of conflict. .New village Press. Oakland Ca.
  6. Devenand Ramaih (2011: 255) in Acting Together Performance and Creative

         Transformation of conflict. Article.Volume I. New village Press. Oakland Ca.

  1. Cynthia E.(2011:9) Perfmance through the lens of Conflict Transformation in Acting

              Together. Volume I. Article ,New village Press. Oakland Ca.

  1. Lederarch P.( 2011 : 11) The moral imagination in Acting Together Performance and

  Creative Transformation of Conflict. Article , volume I. New village Press. Oakl

Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace By: David J. Smith

In the last blog post I showcased an upcoming webinar hosted by David J. Smith, and I thought that I should let you all know about a book he has on this related topic. This book is called Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace and is a guide for college and high school students exploring career options who are interested in working to promote peace building and the resolution of conflict.
A major feature of the book is 30 stories from young professionals, most recently graduated from college, who are working in the field. These profiles provide readers with insight as to strategies they might use to advance their peace building careers. This book is a great resource that students should definitely consider using!

peace jobs book

Are You Starting a Career in Conflict Resolution or Just Looking for a Change? Free ACR Webinar, 4/18/18, 7 p.m. EDT by David J. Smith, REGISTER NOW!

David J. Smith is a writer for the PJSA peace chronicle as well as a conflict resolution educator, peace building trainer, and career coach. His professional experience has spanned the legal, think tank, international, quasi-government, and higher and secondary education sectors. He has taught at all higher education levels: community college, 4-year undergraduate (private, public, religious), graduate, and international. In 2003-2004 he was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar teaching at the University of Tartu in Estonia. From 2005 -2012 he was a senior program officer and senior manager at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington where he managed programs for colleges and universities and developed training for faculty and students. He works with all groups and educational institutions to support peace building awareness. Needless to say, he is very educated in the peace studies field and would be a great resource for any potential peace studies students or workers. He is hosting a webinar on 4/18/18 at 7 pm about careers in conflict resolution and it is highly recommended if you’re interested in this field of work! The webinar  is sponsored by the Education, Research, and Training Section of the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR). Below is the flier for the webinar. Register now at !david j smith webinar

Hello PJSA members, students, or alumni

Thanks for joining me! This blog has been created as a platform for PJSA (Peace and Justice Studies Association) members to share their experiences so that they can help inspire current Peace Studies majors ( This is a broadly defined field that includes the fields of: Peace and Conflict Studies, Conflict Resolution, Social Justice Studies, Conflict Analysis, Conflict Management, Dispute Resolution and a variety of other related fields). PJSA encourages anyone to send in blog posts that they believe will help inspire current students. We want current peace studies majors to see what past peace studies majors have accomplished since leaving college, especially how their degree has helped them to accomplish those things. Along with showing students what you’re currently doing, we want any advice that you would offer to a prospective peace studies student. Anything that you’re willing to share would be amazing, and we hope that this blog can become a tool that students can use to help navigate their futures! Attached is a link to Swarthmore College’s blog that we are hoping to base our blog off of.

Help us to encourage current and prospective Peace Studies Majors!