Professors hope teaching
violence might help prevent it
"Violence-at least in the academic sense-will enter Emory classrooms this fall when the faculty establishes a minor in violence studies to address one of the most significant problems confronting the United States and many regions of the world today.
"Whether expressed in private fears, or through the extreme crime of genocide, interpersonal violence dominates our modern world," said Associate Professor of History Michael Bellesiles, who oversees the new program. "Despite the large number of Emory faculty who research and teach on the subject, there is no sequential course of study to help students understand the problem of violence in its wider context-its history, representation, and theories of origins and responses."
Emory faculty currently teach a wide range of violence-related courses, from juvenile delinquency in sociology and injury prevention and control in public health to the rhetoric and representation of violence in the English department. The minor will not require the addition of new courses, with the exception of a required yearlong introductory course. The interdisciplinary minor will introduce undergraduate students to major literature and theories on violence from the humanities, social and behavioral sciences, public health, and medical research.
Students also will participate in an internship and organize an annual conference on the study of violence for the Emory and Atlanta communities. Funding for the annual conference will be provided by Provost Billy Frye's office as an interdisciplinary and teaching initiative growing out of Choices & Responsibility.
An important goal of the violence studies program is to move students from their studies to direct action in the community, says Art Kellermann, director of the Center for Injury Control at the School of Public Health and acting chief of Emergency Medicine, who is actively involved in developing and implementing the minor. "You can't understand and work toward preventing violence unless you are grounded in real life experiences," said Kellermann. "So often people complain that what they learned in the classroom is never used in real life. The violence minor gives us an opportunity to demonstrate the connection between the classroom and the real world."
Although a few other colleges have created institutes and programs on violence-related issues, to Bellesiles' knowledge Emory has developed the first such program to focus on undergraduate studies.
Bellesiles says he anticipates that the program will offer a prototype for building bridges between education and communities on a range of social programs and challenges, beginning in Emory's hometown of Atlanta. The city offers a host of resources for the program, including government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and nonprofit organizations that combat violence including Mothers of Murdered Sons (MOMS) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
According to Bellesiles, he already has been "inundated" with requests for student interns from Atlanta area groups. He says that students will work with both perpetrators and victims of violence in such settings as the Legal Aid Center, the DeKalb County Jail, Fulton County District Attorney's Office and the Rape Crisis Center. The program also will explore internship opportunities abroad through The Carter Center's conflict resolution program.
In addition to Bellesiles and Kellermann, the following professors comprise the core group that developed and are implementing the minor: associate sociology professor Bob Agnew; assistant psychology professor Patricia Brennan; associate English professor Sheila Cavanagh; assistant college dean and adjunct faculty Priscilla Echols; assistant psychology professor Scott Lilienfeld; associate history professor Mary Odem; visiting religion professor Bobbi Patterson; associate religion professor Thee Smith; and assistant psychology professor Irwin Waldman. Agnew and Cathy Caruth, director of comparative literature, will co-teach the minor's introductory course, violence studies 101.
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