An Innovative Option for the Next Generation of Peacebuilders and Social Innovators
In a time of heightened divisiveness and turmoil in the world, two universities with similar missions have come together to educate the next generation of peacebuilders. Beginning next fall SUA students can start graduate studies at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego while completing their undergraduate degrees.
The Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s Degree Program between SUA and the Kroc School—SUA’s second fast-track graduate program—allows students to pursue a master’s degree at an internationally renowned graduate school, whose focus is the education of future peacebuilders.
“Having collaborated with colleagues at the Kroc School and USD in the past, I am particularly proud of this new partnership, which brings together two universities whose mission and founding principles are so closely aligned,” said Michael Weiner, vice president for Academic Affairs, interim dean of faculty, and professor of East Asian history and International Studies. “I think this provides our students with a unique opportunity to carry forward the mission of SUA into the real world.”
Patricia Márquez, associate provost for academic planning and innovation, dean and professor of social innovation at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, echoed Weiner’s enthusiasm. “We are incredibly excited about our new partnership with Soka University of America,” Márquez said. “Through this collaboration we are able to offer students more opportunities for pursuing unique accelerated degree programs focused on peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and changemaking.
“Mrs. Joan B. Kroc would be very proud because this is the type of initiative that exemplifies her vision for building a better world through education in peace and justice. The combined programs bring together the strengths of Soka’s liberal arts education with the Kroc School’s unique pedagogical models for learning how to build more peaceful and just societies. We can hardly wait to see the impact the students will have in the world.”
Building on a Solid Foundation
Before joining SUA, Weiner had served as chair of the Department of Asian Studies and director of the Japan Studies Institute at San Diego State University. He represented that university on the organizing committee for the annual Kyoto Laureate Symposium at USD.
Weiner later invited a colleague from the Kroc School, Necla Tschirgi, distinguished professor of Human Security and Peacebuilding, to participate in the Culture of Peace event at SUA, which has historically brought peacemakers to the Soka campus.
In 2020, Professor Tschirgi suggested a meeting with senior USD administrators, who raised the possibility of developing an accelerated BA to master’s program with SUA. Weiner quickly agreed and met with USD colleagues over a period of months. Using Soka’s accelerated graduate degree program with Claremont Graduate University as a template, we designed a program that both schools are thrilled with, Weiner said.
Through this arrangement, qualified undergraduates can begin taking courses toward one of three master’s degrees: MA in Peace and Justice, MA in Social Innovation, or MS in Conflict Management and Resolution. Weiner said the three options allow students to narrow their focus on particular paths to careers in peacebuilding, while offering opportunities for them to pursue field work with leading practitioners in the field. The Kroc School will waive the application fee for students in the accelerated program.
“We can now offer students an extraordinary gateway into a very specialized world, a school where the entire curriculum is focused on peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and social innovation,” he said. “Soka provides the foundation and then the Kroc School enhances those skills in terms of the real world, preparing our students to pursue that mission and in a concrete way.
Associate Professor of International Studies Lisa MacLeod serves as SUA’s co-director and Professor Bryan Penprase, vice president for Sponsored Research and External Academic Relations, is responsible for overall management.