New Major in Justice and Peace

March 10, 2014—Starting in the fall of 2014, Georgetown College will offer a major in justice and peace studies (JUPS), giving students an opportunity to prepare for futures in social justice action and peace building.

Georgetown’s Program on Justice and Peace provides students with a unique perspective on the field of peace studies. There are myriad branches under the banner of peace studies, Visiting Assistant Professor Randall Amster says, such as peace and conflict studies and peace and security studies.

“The intentional choice to have justice precede peace in the name of this program tells you a bit about the direction that we hope to go,” Amster, who is also the director of the program, said. “The idea is that justice is an end in and of itself, but also perhaps a means to a peaceful world.

“The way we practice our day-to-day arrangements—socially, economically, politically, culturally, environmentally—the justice components of all that indicate an ultimate vision of peace that we are pursuing,” he continued.

The program already offers a six-course minor and a certificate. The minor in justice and peace will no longer require a thesis, which Amster believes will make the minor more feasible for some students. The major will consist of 11 courses, including a concentration and a thesis. With the approval of the major, Amster and his colleagues will create new courses, including a research methodologies course, to prepare students for careers in the field. Students will have the opportunity to design their own concentration, such as non-violent social change, Catholic social teaching, environmental peace building, or international human rights.

Like the justice and peace studies minor, the major will require at least one community-based learning course. “JUPS classes are distinguished because we do have a preponderance of community-based learning classes throughout our curriculum,” Amster said. “[This] community engagement tends to be one of the hallmarks of the program. We [are] very invested in having students move from the classroom to the community,” he continued.

This service-learning component illustrates the values of the program, Amster says, but it also helps students meld theory and practice. “Peace and justice aren’t just good ideas. They’re concrete sets of practices and ways of actually performing our political, social, and cultural identities in the world,” he explained.

For the last year and a half, students were actively involved in the campaign to make justice and peace studies a major. Kyla McClure (C’15) and Gianna Maita (C’15) chose to campaign for a major after they took Introduction to Justice and Peace during their first year at Georgetown. The two later became friends at a humanitarian aid conference. “We talked about our experiences in our intro courses and began to formulate the idea of majoring in justice and peace,” McClure said.

“We realized that Georgetown, as a Jesuit university, should include a justice and peace studies major and give the option to students who wish to pursue careers in this field,” McClure continued.

McClure and Maita were unaware of the logistical challenges of starting a new major at a university, including needs for more resources, professors, and space. But the campaign was not just about overcoming logistical problems. “I was amazed by how enjoyable the process of working with my peers and the JUPS faculty would be,” Maita said.

“We all came from different background and levels, but everyone respected student opinions even though all of the faculty had multiple degrees and some had probably been thinking about making this major for years,” Maita continued. “I really appreciated having my voice heard and hearing all of their wisdom.”

Although the justice and peace studies major has been approved, the work is not over. Amster and the JUPS faculty are looking forward to designing new courses and creating a larger community around the program.

“An amazing team of people came together to make the JUPS major, and we are all extremely excited to build the program,” Maita said. “We are hoping to stay involved in the major to help create a thriving program [that] supports new and current students.”

—Elizabeth Wilson