Something that Resembles a Direction for my Undergraduate Education

/ 1 February 2012

When I was applying to colleges in my senior year at Avalon I had my sights set on becoming a Computer Science major. But in one of the online enrollment forms for CSB/SJU there was a place to put a second major, and so I looked through the list and selected Peace Studies because what I understood at the time it entailed was interesting and thought it would provide a decent second major, or even a decent choice as a single major. However my sights were still set upon Computer Science.

Now, most Computer Science programs in existence today are based on a solid mathematics foundation. But that isn’t, as I can attest to with my knowledge of OS X/iOS software development and having a hard time with advanced math, the only approach schools can take if they so choose. There is also, as my dad has put it, an art approach. This is one where you would go off of a creative baseline instead of a mathematical baseline.

Every freshmen (and transfer student) at CSB/SJU takes First-Year Seminar, a course that ultimately felt like a homeroom of sorts to me last academic year. Probably because of my interest in Peace Studies I ended up in an FYS taught by a professor in the PCST department. I also ended up enrolled in the Intro to Peace and Conflict Studies course that Fall term of 2010. After failing the required (given my low math score on the ACT) quantitative skills inventory necessary to register for a required (for what CSB/SJU calls the Common Curriculum, course areas, attributes they’re officially called, we all need to take on top of major requirements, let alone possible Computer Science courses) math course I knew that actually majoring in Computer Science wasn’t really in the plausible picture. So, with my only heightening interest in Peace Studies as a major I dropped the Computer Science major from my records and fully became a Peace Studies major.

Each individual Peace Studies major has to focus their goals within the major in order to graduate successfully and be prepared for what will come after graduation. We write this up in a formal focus statement that we turn in along with the standard major application form and our academic transcript when we formally apply to the major in the second semester of our sophomore year.

The first part of this document outlines what has drawn us into the Peace Studies major. Beyond this backstory (not actually included with my focus statement) I said that what has drawn me into the Peace Studies program at the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University is the increasing importance that peace education and awareness plays in our global society. I feel that my inherent strengths fit well with what is needed for a successful major in Peace Studies. The interdisciplinary aspect of the program helped draw me as it means that not only will I have a little more control of my education, but also unlike most majors as a Peace Studies major I will be getting more of an education that incorporates, and indeed relies on, the interconnectedness of many different disciplines. This interconnectedness wasn’t necessarily a major draw for me to the department, but is certainly a nice piece of it.

We then have to explain what our specific focus will be. I started by mentioning that another interest of mine, and an area where I’m learning a lot on my own, is in software development (just look at Tenseg for some examples). As such, the intersection of modern technology and peace building with a special focus on that technology’s influence on nonviolent means is in many ways at the heart of my intended focus for the Peace Studies major. This will incorporate my more casual interests and strengths in computer programming with the education I’ll get in the Peace Studies major. Throughout the past few years two things of become clear to me: The first is that violent warfare isn’t an appropriate or final answer to any conflict; The second thing that I’ve come to understand is be it for better or worse as a race we humans are increasingly relying on technology to survive. My particular focus in the Peace Studies department aims to begin to merge these two tracks. My goal is to learn about nonviolent means and history so that I can bring that knowledge into perspective with regard to what technology today and in the future can offer those means given how our modern society is designed and operates. In the peace studies terminology, that means much of the actual PCST courses I take will be tied to nonviolence, movements related to nonviolence, and conflict resolution. Much of the technology side will be my own independent informal explorations partially based on staying current in the social media and computer programming spheres. Courses from other social science departments will deal with that last third of my goal by hopefully teaching me about society and its functioning today.

The last piece of the focus statement that I’ll reproduce here is the part where we state what formal concentration (out of humanities, social science, and natural science) we will be in. I stated that in terms of formal concentration for the major, this means that I’ll go down the path of the Social Sciences concentration. Some of the key courses are within the Peace Studies department itself, but other may fall more within the POLS and SOCI departments. A few of the appropriate courses (or required prerequisites thereof) I’ve already taken.

So there you have it. Something that resembles a direction for my undergraduate education at CSB/SJU to go in. We’ll see how much this is in fact the direction I went down come graduation in a little over two academic years.