School of Peace and Conflict Studies new director looks to uphold school’s reputation

Lauren Sasala

Kent State has appointed a director for its newly established School of Peace and Conflict Studies: Neil Cooper. 

Kent State established the Center for Applied Conflict Management in order to have a “living memorial” after four students were killed during the May 4th protest in 1970. In August 2017, the Center for Applied Conflict Management officially evolved into the School of Peace and Conflict Studies.

Cooper previously served as the head of Peace Studies and International Development at the University of Bradford in the U.K.

The strong reputation for research in peace and conflict, the dedication of the faculty and the strong curriculum are what interested Cooper in Kent State, he said.

“There’s a really strong emphasis in delivering applied skill and thinking through how to deal with these topics around peace, non-violence, conflict resolution and mediation in ways that are actually relevant for students who want to go out into the world and use those skills to get jobs,” Cooper said.

With the 50th anniversary of May 4 in 2020, Cooper said it will be an honor and a privilege to lead the school through the commemoration.

“I am acutely aware of the significance and importance of the school,” Cooper said. “I don’t think it is quite like taking over a kind of normal department at Kent State University. There’s a different salience and significance that the school has in the university and in the community.”

As the school develops its studies and research, Cooper said May 4 offers a sense of duty and obligation to be respectful of the legacy the tragedy has had at Kent State.

For the future of the school, Cooper said having a knowledge of past progress in peace and security is important to recognize in order to continue progress.

“Every generation faces challenges around peace and conflict and I think the role of academics working the field of peace and conflict studies is to offer expert advice … and to embed the skills of critical thinking amongst our student population,” Cooper said.

Over 1,000 students are currently enrolled in the School of Peace and Conflict Studies. Courses are available for undergraduate and graduate students.

Cooper said he was impressed with the rigorous academic training used by the faculty.

“What’s reflected in the curriculum in the school is the fact that those skills of mediation, conflict resolution and negotiation are skills that everybody needs,” Cooper said.

He said he is looking forward to working with students and faculty to continue to develop the school.

“I am interested in having a process of consultation and developing a co-produced mission for the school that involves all of the community,” Cooper said.

He will start his position this spring.

“I’m really excited to begin this process of discussions with everybody about how we figure out what the next phase of the school is so we can build on incredible successes we have already,” Cooper said.

Lauren Sasala is the administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected].