The Ball State Center for Peace and Conflict Studies is one of the Centers and Institutes that are part of the College of Health. They have a mission to educate students through academics, with an undergraduate minor in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. The mission also involves promoting nonviolent alternatives to conflict, and providing resources, training, and services to Ball State, the local community, State, and beyond. This interdisciplinary center formed in 1988 and hasn’t stopped advocating for peace since.
They have offered mediator training on campus for the last three years, and as of this year have trained nearly 40 faculty members and administrators.
They also were given a grant by the Muncie Community Schools (MCS) to train the staff at Grissom and South View Elementary schools in conflict prevention and resolution skills.
The training included several intensive days of instruction and activity-based learning which will be implemented by the teachers and others in their classrooms. The Peace Center team will meet with the participants monthly to further mentor them in using their skills throughout the fall semester. The interdisciplinary, collaborative six-member team was led by Dr. Lawrence Gerstein (George & Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Psychology-Counseling and Director, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies) and Dr. Lauren Shaffer (Audiology; Associate Director, Peace Center). Dr. Lindsey Blom (Sport & Exercise Psychology; Peace Center Advisory Board) and Madison Pavone (Peace Center Graduate Assistant; Counseling Psychology student) from the College of Health were members of the team. The training had tips and tricks to help attendees connect with students, create safe spaces, implement curricula, and model ideal non-violent behaviors for their classrooms and schools. This program was found to be so successful at Grissom and South View that the Peace Center grant was expanded to include offering training to all the instructional assistants in MCS.
The Peace Center also has trained 100+ Ball State personnel in conflict prevention and resolution skills, and has trained all the Ball State police and parking service staff as well as the Muncie police in de-escalation skills.
Offering training programs and other community programs aren’t all that the Peace Center is doing to facilitate peace. Coming soon will be a Peace Plaza in the circular concrete area adjacent to University Green and the Frog Baby Fountain. They broke ground on this project in early September, erecting the first peace pole.
Additional poles will be constructed in the near future. Ball State will be the first institution of higher education in the USA to feature a Peace Plaza.
The purpose of the Peace Plaza, according to Gerstein is, “to promote a message of peace and inclusive excellence, and to remember and honor persons who have lost their lives in the United States as a result of acts of mass campus and/or community violence, and members of the Ball State and Central Indiana communities that have died in the line of duty serving in the U.S. Military or law enforcement.”
The series of Peace Poles will represent all seven continents, in order to be symbolic of people around the globe. Limestone and granite from Indiana, will be used to symbolize Hoosiers. There are also plans for plaques to be added to the benches surrounding the poles, to commemorate tragedies of the past, and memorialize individuals from central Indiana, including Ball State faculty, staff and students that died in the performance of duty in the U.S. Military and law enforcement. In coordination with the Peace Center, members of the Ball State and Muncie community will be permitted to host peace and social justice events at the Plaza.
Professor Anthony Costello served as the designing architect. Advisory Board Members of the Peace Center and James Lowe (Vice President for Facilities Planning & Management) have assisted with envisioning the Plaza design. Mr. Lowe will manage the installation, and Gerstein will oversee the entire project. The inaugural event for the Plaza will be held in Spring 2024.