(Posted September 5, 2017)

On September 15 & 16, 2017 six representatives from Juniata College will attend the 29th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum, which is the only forum operating under the auspices of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, and is the only such academic affiliation outside of Norway.

Each year, the Nobel Peace Prize Forum brings together Nobel laureates, world leaders, and accomplished peacemakers with students and community members to “work on building a world in which people can live full, rich, and meaningful lives,” according to the Forum’s website. The event is hosted and presented by Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minn.

Juniata’s Polly Walker, director of the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies and Elizabeth Evans Baker Professor of Peace Studies, will also speak at the event which includes presenters such as former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Ann Bancroft, one of the world’s preeminent polar explorers, and Barbara Bush, Chief Executive Office and co-founder of Global Health Corps.

This year’s conference keynote speakers are the 2015 laureate, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, who are being recognized “for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011,” according to the Forum’s website. The Quartet’s presentation will focus on dialogue and strengthening democracy in divided societies.

“The Nobel Institute does not only award prizes,” says Walker. “The Prize Forum hosts international peacebuilding conferences because building dialogue is something we all do as peacebuilders.”

Walker adds that the Quartet’s efforts to promote dialogue over debate relate directly to courses held at Juniata’s Baker Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, whose goals are: to provide exceptional undergraduate education in peace and conflict studies; to provide outreach via conferences and workshops; to conduct research, curriculum development, and consultation; and to provide support for peacebuilding programs and institutions in and out of the academic community.

Juniata attendees include: Polly Walker, director of the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies and Elizabeth Evans Baker Professor of Peace Studies; Celia Cook-Huffman, W. Clay and Kathryn H. Burkholder Professor of Conflict Resolution and chair of Juniata’s education department; Deon Mendez, a first-year student from Pembroke, N.H.; Madalyn Miller, a junior from Tyrone, Pa.; and Savannah Parson, a senior from Slippery Rock, Pa.

“I hope students attending this conference will be exposed to a much broader range of what people are doing around the world to build peace,” Walker says. “Our students are exposed regularly to case studies, but they need to meet people working in the field, to get the chance to ask: ‘How do you do what you do?’ ‘How do you make a living in this field?’ ‘How do you overcome obstacles to make a difference?’”

Conference topics range from healthcare and peacebuilding to peacebuilding across faiths, water access and entrepreneurship. These offerings also mirror the curricular approach at Juniata where the studying of peacebuilding is integrated into classes like Nuclear Physics and Civil Rights and the South, which are topics regularly in the news today.

“In a time where we have seen so much hatred and divide, it's important that we remember to challenge ourselves, every day, to be a better person—to be kind to others, to show compassion, and to believe, deep down, that we are capable of extraordinary things,” says Miller. “I hope that this conference provides me with tools and strategies that will allow me to become that better person.”

Miller adds that she hopes to learn more about strategies she was introduced to in a Conflict Resolution class at Juniata that is taught by Walker.

Walker’s credentials as a featured panelist for the Forum’s high level dialogues include her extensive work in arts and peacebuilding. She is co-editor of Acting Together: Performance and the Creative Transformation of Conflict Vol. I: Resistance and Reconciliation in Regions of Violence and Vol. II: Building Just and Inclusive Communities. And, she is Chair of the Indigenous Education Institute (IEI), whose work supports ethical collaboration with Indigenous peoples and revitalization of their knowledge systems, particularly in relation to the sciences.

For more information about the Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, visit www.juniata.edu/bakerinstitute.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.