A College of Charleston sociology professor and hundreds of her students are committed to the idea of positive peace and have made a lasting impact on the Charleston community, the College’s academic curriculum, and thousands of young lives. Since students took hold of the idea in 2007, it has grown exponentially and this semester students will be in dozens of non-profits and community organizations working toward peace-building and creating awareness about the International Day of Peace.  

This semester, students in Reba Parker’s Sociology of Peace courses will be involved in more than 20 different community projects that range from teaching a class to planting a peace pole, creating a coloring book for kids or designing marketing materials. Beginning February 27, they will work with Jenkins Academy, a Charleston alternative middle school for troubled teens, every Tuesday offering two classes to students at Jenkins Academy. This will be done through Sociology 290 Peace (Field Experience) Lab, a new course offered this semester. Parker and a colleague from Trident Technical School, Joel Sease, have developed a conflict resolution-based curriculum and are training College students to serve as teachers and mentors.

“College of Charleston students are LONGING to get outside of the classroom and enact social change,” says Parker, a sociology professor at the College. “Young people who get involved in the community are making a real difference where they live while at the same time gaining practical skills. Many of my students are interested in starting non-profits, so they are able to intern for Charleston Peace One Day (birthed out of this movement) visit a CP1D board meeting, create websites and promotional videos, serve as adjunct board members for a semester, etc.”

Parker sparked this movement in 2007 when she showed her Sociology 101 classes a film called “Peace One Day.” They started by informing students of International Day of Peace (September 21). Each following year, the students became more engaged and ambitious. In 2008, the sociology classes created a peace festival that was attended by 600 people (a peace pole is now planted in Brittlebank Park in honor of the day). In 2009, Parker taught the first Sociology of Peace course and consistently has more demand than seats. The non-profit Charleston Peace One Day was also founded and its executive director is Beth Wendt ‘08, a teaching assistant in the first Sociology of Peace class. Also that year, the College became the only campus in South Carolina to have a Student Peace Alliance and the CP1D festival tripled in size. In 2010 a third festival took place in North Charleston, with teaching forums lead by many College of Charleston professors. In September 2011, the peace festival was changed to a Peace Happens campaign, in which more than 80 groups did peace actions statewide, making it the largest positive peace initiative in South Carolina history.

Parker says, “I think the interest in international and community peace building comes from many things. One, our social space is now seen through a global lens, and our educational response should help students become informed global leaders. Problems like disease, economics, poverty, war, and climate change don’t just affect certain boundaries anymore, but initiate domino effects that touch us all. Students understand this and want to have a deeper understanding of how connections work. They also know there are healthier, more efficient ways to resolve conflict other than violence?  Students see that colleges that focus primarily on national issues are falling behind on international perspectives.  Lastly, they truly want to be a creative part of the global solution, they just need a bit of direction and support.”

Coming in fall 2012, Parker will be teaching a First Year Experience seminar focused on Peace- as well as a WGS/SOC class entitled “Gender and War: Women as Peacemakers,” highlighting women’s actions across the globe (this year all three Nobel Peace Prize were women).

Parker can be reached at 843-437-3280 or parkerr@cofc.edu. More information.