It is said that the path to peace starts within. But in an increasingly divided world rife with stress and frustration, finding your place of zen is easier said than done.

That’s why psychology professor Rhonda Swickert and Rachael McNamara, outreach prevention coordinator with the Counseling Center, have created the Peace Initiative, a weeklong series of events March 5-11, 2018.

“The idea is that cultivating peace throughout the world starts with cultivating peace within yourself,” says Swickert, who is the director of the College’s Mindfulness Initiative. “We have less to give if we are feeling stressed or unsafe. So, the hope is that we can become agents of change – both for ourselves and for the world.”

And with today’s constant barrage of media outlets splashing the latest political, health or safety crisis across our television screens, laptops and newspapers, it’s no wonder that according to USA Today, “57 percent of Americans indicate that the political climate is a very significant or somewhat significant source of stress.”

CofC students aren’t immune to the weight of current events.

“The Cougar Counseling Team noted an increase in students seeking help for unease and unrest following the presidential election in 2016,” says McNamara, who is the director of the College’s Koru Program. “Even one student feeling unsafe or unsupported is one student too many, so we want to turn that feeling around and engage people on both sides of the question.”

In sponsorship with the Sustainability Literacy Institute, the Meditation Club, the Mindfulness Initiative, the Riley Center, the Office of Institutional Diversity, the Department of Psychology, Department of English, the Urban Studies Program, the Office of Sustainability, and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Peace Initiative will facilitate a discussion of techniques that can be used to cultivate peace within the individual, community, and our society. The goal is to foster greater levels of understanding and unity with those who have differing views, and then address today’s problems by working together, rather than working against one another.

“This is our response to the deepening divide caused by polarizing views that are driving individuals, communities and our society apart,” says Swickert. “We see ramifications of this divide in our students as well.”

The public is invited to join the College of Charleston community in a little mindfulness. The Peace Initiative kicks off at the College of Charleston on Monday. All events are free.

Peace Initiative events include:

Cultivating Peace within the Self

4 p.m. on March 5 Stern Center Ballroom

Presented by Rhonda Swickert (Psychology) and sponsored by the Sustainability Literacy Institute, the Meditation Club, and the Mindfulness Initiative. This presentation will involve a discussion of techniques that can serve to facilitate effective emotional and cognitive regulation, particularly when one is faced with conflictual interactions with others. By effectively regulating our own thoughts and emotions, we have a better opportunity to positively engage others who may have beliefs different than our own. Reception to follow.

Truth and Reconciliation

4 p.m. on March 6 Stern Center room 205

Truth and reconciliation as a strategy to work toward justice and peace will be reviewed by Lisa Covert (History) and David Slucki (Jewish Studies). Our discussants will draw upon models that have been used in post-WWII Germany, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Rwanda and several Latin American countries. They also will explore whether these techniques could be applied in conflictual situations that our country is facing now (e.g., maintenance vs. removal of confederate memorials).

Peace Parade and display of Children’s Art on Peace

10:30 a.m. on March 7 Stern Center 4th floor atrium

The children who attend the College of Charleston’s Early Childhood Development Center, along with their teachers and the director, Katie Houser, will host a Peace Parade. They will be joined by students at Memminger Elementary and the entire College of Charleston campus is invited to participate in the Peace Parade. The parade will start at the School of Education and end at the Stern Center. At the Stern Center there will be a reception for parade participants along with a display of students’ peace-themed artwork.

Importance of Peace in Environmentalism

12 p.m. on March 7  Stern Center Ballroom

Panelists drawn from across the College of Charleston campus will discuss the role of peace in environmentalism. This presentation will explore the long term environmental consequences that occur when humans engage in conflict and how this awareness might motivate us to work more effectively toward peace.  Organized by Kerry Wischusen, President of the Meditation Club. Sponsored by the Department of Urban Studies and the Office of Sustainability.

KEYNOTE: Forgiveness as a Process that Facilitates Justice and Peace

5:30 p.m. on March 8 Stern Center Ballroom

Our keynote speaker, Everett Worthington (Virginia Commonwealth University) will discuss how forgiveness can serve to facilitate justice and peace. Forgiveness is something that we do first for ourselves, and it does not mean that a transgressor is relieved from being accountable for their actions. Specifically, one can forgive, but still expect the transgressor to experience a consequence based on her or his actions. Worthington will explore these issues and explain how forgiveness and justice can work together for the benefit of all. Reception to follow. Sponsored by the Department of Psychology and the Sustainability Literacy Institute.

Half-day Meditation Retreat

12 – 4 p.m. on March 11 George Street Fitness Center multi-purpose room

Rachael McNamara, outreach prevention coordinator at the Counseling Center and director of The Koru Program, will host a meditation retreat. The retreat will explore techniques and themes that complement the Peace Initiative. For more information and to register, please email: