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Saturday, March 2, 2024
The Observer

Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies to hold conference examining peace studies, psychology

In an effort to explore the relationship between psychology and conflict, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, together with the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 48, will host the first Psychology and Peace Conference this weekend. The conference will include workshops, speeches and panels given by leading experts in the interdisciplinary field of peace psychology.

“The conference topics are pretty broad-ranging, and the idea is to create an inclusive picture of what the future of peace psychology could look like and to really emphasize the role of rigorous empirical work as a contribution to social justice,” Laura Miller-Graff, assistant professor of psychology and peace studies, said.

As a member of the conference planning committee, Miller-Graff has played a role in choosing and inviting speakers to campus who will encompass many areas of expertise in psychology and violence, reaching from small-scale interactions to conflicts that play out on the world stage.

“We have a speaker who’s addressing genocide and a psychologist who’s addressing climate change, to more interpersonal forms of violence, so we have a speaker who will be talking about bullying,” Miller-Graff said. “We have something that would attract a lot of different audiences and give them a forum for thinking about how all these things relate to one another in terms of creating the big picture of addressing violence and conflict in global and local contexts.”

The idea for the conference, Miller-Graff said, came from a suggestion by former APA Division 48 president, Scott Moeschberger, who attended a conference on global psycho-social care held by Miller-Graff and E. Mark Cummings, another psychology professor at Notre Dame. APA Division 48 focuses on the study of peace and conflict.

“[Moeschberger] has been wanting to reinvigorate the division in terms of bringing in young scholars, enhancing the focus on rigorous empirical work,” Miller-Graff said. “He pitched the idea when we held that conference of exploring the possibility of us holding it at Notre Dame, and so when we returned from that conference we started the process rolling.” 

The conference has been in the works for about a year and a half, with Miller-Grant contributing to the general conference planning, as well as handling the logistics of hosting scholars and guests on campus. Notre Dame students and faculty may attend speeches and panels free of charge.

“Since I’m here at Notre Dame, I’m also spearheading all the nitty gritty details of working with the conference office and making sure everybody can get where they’re going, sorting things out from this end of campus,” Miller-Graff said.”It’s been really fun — I’ve gotten to work with a lot of different people and it’s been great. It’s been crazy, but it’s been great.”

The interdisciplinary nature of the conference, she said, allows for unusual engagement that can open the doors to new research.

“We have about a hundred people who are registered to attend, and doing work in diverse areas related to violence and conflict and a lot of those people ... don’t often attend the same professional conferences, so this is a pretty unique opportunity to bring together people’s work in a really interesting way,” Miller-Graff said. “I think I’m most excited for some of the informal conversations and collaborations that will emerge from this.”