Georgetown College approved justice and peace studies as an official major Tuesday, after a yearlong campaign by the program’s students.
“We see our transition into a justice and peace studies major as a positive sign of university validation for our unique, collaborative program,” Program on Justice and Peace Director Randall Amster said.
The new major will be a part of the Program on Justice and Peace, which already offers a six-course minor in the College as well as a certificate in the School of Foreign Service, School of Nursing and Health Studies and McDonough School of Business.
The JUPS major will fall under the department of interdisciplinary studies in the College, which also includes the cognitive science program. Students pursuing the 11-course major will consult with a JUPS faculty member to design a concentration consisting of a minimum of three courses. Possible examples of concentrations include conflict transformation, social movements and humanitarian aid.
“It’s inherently an interdisciplinary investigation, something that connects natural and social science to philosophy, to theology and to many other things,” said Mark Lance, professor of philosophy, who helped to develop the JUPS program more than 20 years ago.
Students largely drove the movement to create a JUPS major, collecting data from students and universities that offer similar majors in order to lobby College Dean Chester Gillis.
“In effect, students used all the nonviolent strategic tactics as well as their understanding of sustaining a community movement that they learned in their JUPS courses to make the JUPS major come to fruition,” former JUPS Director and current Center for Social Justice Director Andria Wisler wrote in an email.
JUPS minors Kyla McClure (COL ’15) and Gianna Maita (COL ’15) began the campaign for a major in fall 2012.
“Georgetown is a Jesuit university and in that sense it is very much committed to social justice and social action,” McClure said. “The JUPS major provides the theoretical, academic context for a lot of the work that students do already.”
Maita agreed that the major will provide students with both the tools to do social justice work and the theory to back it up.
“Justice and peace as a field develops students’ thinking and research toward how to make the world more just and peaceful; it allows us to reflect on how to live for others in an academic space,” Maita, who is currently studying abroad, wrote in an email.
The major’s curriculum includes five foundational courses and three electives in addition to the three concentration courses, while the minor requires three foundational courses and three electives.
The requirements for the minor previously included a 50-page thesis to be completed over two semesters during senior year. Now, this thesis is part of the curriculum for the major and will no longer be a requirement for the minor, going forward. Current seniors must still complete their theses, but juniors solely pursuing a minor will not be required to do the same.
Supporters of the JUPS major hope that its creation will attract more interest for the minor as well.
“Now students who like the JUPS department, but couldn’t really dedicate themselves to a full thesis for a minor are going to be able to minor without that, like a lot of similar minor programs,” McClure said.
Since the rigorous requirements that were in place for the minor required strong administrative support, the leadership of the program will not change despite the addition of a major.
“We don’t have to alter our faculty or administrators because our justice and peace minor was almost like a major event before this expansion, because of our requirement of the 50-page thesis,” Amster said.
Amster, along with Elham Atashi, was one of two new full-time faculty members hired to the JUPS program at the start of last semester.
“The faculty felt that, with those hires, we were actually in a position to responsibly offer a major that the students were pushing for,” Lance said.
Lance anticipates that the program will continue to expand with the creation of the major.
“We’re hopeful to begin developing things like a dedicated study abroad programs, community based research and community based study conferences that will hopefully start coming out next year,” Lance said.
The major program will commence in the fall 2014 semester. Current freshmen and sophomores will be able to declare JUPS majors, while juniors who would like to pursue the new major will only be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Some of the juniors who pushed for the creation of the JUPS major have already begun to complete the curriculum in anticipation of its approval.
“I knew what the requirements [for the major] were, so I’ve just been taking the classes and crossing my fingers,” Margaux Nielsen (COL ’15) said.
Nielsen is a teaching assistant for the justice and peace introductory class and said that several underclassmen taking the course have expressed interest in pursing the major.
Gillis anticipates up to 30 students choosing the JUPS major, next year.
“If it goes as we plan, then the JUPS program will have a bigger imprint at Georgetown and there will be more students engaged,” Gillis said.
The plan for the major includes a provision that will allow Gillis to review the program after four years and dial it back if he finds that there is not significant student interest.
Gillis also thought the new major could help Georgetown attract prospective students.
“It can only help us by having another option for students who have this passion,” Gillis said.