Kitchener resident Patty Dorsey was at a crossroads in life. After raising five children and working with mentally challenged individuals for twenty years, Dorsey needed a change in direction. At the encouragement of her husband, she returned to school as a student in Social Development Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS). Dorsey felt like life was perfect. However, a year later, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within eight months. After a short break from school, Dorsey completed her Bachelor’s degree and was then accepted into the Master of Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS) program at Conrad Grebel University College.
Combining rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship with concrete application, MPACS is designed to be a vibrant academic program that empowers students with the knowledge, research, and practical skills needed to contribute to nonviolent peacebuilding efforts. The MPACS program places a unique focus on the pivotal role that individuals within civil society play as catalysts for peace.
“The main reason I chose MPACS was because it is a small, specialized program focusing not only on peace and conflict issues, but also civil society as a whole,” Dorsey explained. Although she’s not certain what direction her future will take her, Dorsey is interested in conflict resolution and would love to work as a mediator and possibly go overseas. “To work with an organization where I could combine travelling and support those who are marginalized would be amazing.”
In its inaugural year, the MPACS program welcomed 11 full-time and 5 part-time students. “We have a very interesting and diverse group of students and are delighted by the experience, perspective and energy that they bring to our program,” noted PACS Director Lowell Ewert. These trailblazing students include persons who have worked as community mental health workers, a pastor, with NGOs, in non-profit finance, an ESL teacher, and others from different areas of civil society with varied experiences.
“It is our hope,” projects Ewert, “that our first incoming class will be inspired to continue working towards the ideals that they represent in building community, becoming engaged in local and global issues, fostering compassionate service, direct involvement in active peacemaking, and promoting responsible global citizenship. When they finish our program, our students will be better equipped to provide the visionary leadership necessary to respond to the complex challenges facing our world today.”
There are 6-8 MPACS courses offered a term including varying numbers of cross-listed courses with the Political Science, Global Governance, Theological Studies and International Development departments at the University of Waterloo. Students have the option to take a skills-training workshop from Grebel’s Certificate Program in Conflict Management and do some extra academic work to receive academic credit. As well, a number of students have already expressed interest in the program’s internship option for next spring.
“When my husband passed away,” reflected Dorsey, “it reinforced to me how precious life is, and it should not be wasted. Whether that means opening a group home, working in a war zone, or bring peace and reducing conflict in some other way every person has an important part to play in making this world a better place.”