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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Dean's Message: Resilience Everywhere

Written by Kroc School

Dean's Message: Resilience Everywhere

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

begin quoteRest assured that we will continue to provide high quality learning and thought leadership as we face humanity’s urgent challenges.

The following post was contributed by Patricia Márquez, Dean of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies.

Above, a screen capture of a MURAL canvas composed during the virtual "Coffee and Conversations" meeting initiated and led by three Kroc School students.

It seems like our world woke up to an unprecedented challenge that took many of us by surprise. What can we do at such a time when people around the world are getting sick or dying? In a present with great uncertainty, when the life we knew no longer exists in the same terms, we are bound to express that our hearts go out to the citizens of the world, especially to those who are courageously caring for others, including their loved ones. We are grateful and we know we are fortunate.  

As we muddle through the pandemic, the Kroc School focuses on nurturing social and organizational resilience. This is our third week of 100% remote learning – both for our students as well as our broader peacebuilding community. It has been a transformation the USD-Kroc community has embraced with commitment to high-impact learning and a huge dose of humility. In the blink of an eye we have adapted to a completely different model of learning and operating, while maintaining full awareness of the multitude of hardships experienced by our students, faculty, staff and community partners. Yet, in spite of the current challenges, every day that passes we hear inspiring examples of solidarity and creativity. We want to share some of them with you. 

One of the key differentiators of our programs has been an emphasis on the integration of theory and practice. Historically, this has meant getting our students outside the classroom and into settings where they can experience things that heretofore appeared nearly impossible to replicate online. For example, this semester, Associate Professor Ami Carpenter had originally planned to take one of her classes on an in-person tour of the San Diego neighborhood of Broadway Heights and its celebrated MLK Promendade with Robbie Robinson, a community elder who spearheaded a peacebuilding effort there that reduced gang crime and homicides. Instead, Professor Carpenter and Robbie Robinson leveraged Zoom to lead students through a virtual experience using Google Earth to navigate geographically, a visual presentation to contextualize history, and videos to share lived experience research. She mixed available modalities to leapfrog beyond a virtual tour. Her goal was to reimagine the student experience and how she might broaden their perspectives with her mashup during this temporary reality.

Driven to build community and unite their class during the pandemic, Kroc School students Sienna George (MASI), Daria Tomsky (MASI) and Aaron Pellot (MAPJ) organized a virtual “Coffee and Conversation.” The initiative was entirely student- initiated and student-led. Over the course of the meeting which was well attended, the student leaders employed the principles they’d learned through their coursework to “engage in empathetic dialogue” and live the words of one of their inspirations, Coretta Scott King: “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

A new effort to maintain connectivity with our broader community as we shelter in place is Kroc at a Distance, a webinar series geared towards sharing our thought leadership. The first webinar, “A Pandemic’s Impact on Peace,” will be led by Impact:Peace Director Rachel Locke at 1 p.m. Pacific Time on Wednesday, April 15. In this webinar she highlights how the curve of COVID-19 cases isn’t the only one that needs to be flattened. The coronavirus pandemic is already producing knock-on effects for safety at the individual level, the community level, and – potentially – at the international level. She has examined three of the greatest risk areas from a conflict and violence perspective, followed by a roadmap to help us chart a pathway forward. The insights that will be presented were developed through rigorous research. The analysis has made its way into several government agencies thinking about how to best plan to support peace in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, including USAID and DfID.

These are just three examples of how we — the Kroc School — bounce back in this time of crisis to fulfill our mission and commitments to our diverse community and to the world. We want to thank you once again for the inspiration, support and understanding you have provided to our students and employees, and to your local communities. Of course, we foresee new challenges ahead. However, we feel optimistic because we know our resilience coefficient is high and keeps growing.  

We are prepared for this new context because we recognize our greatest asset: our community of people. Rest assured that we will continue to provide high quality learning and thought leadership as we face humanity’s urgent challenges. Of course, your input and support is always welcome. 

Please stay healthy and safe,


Justin Prugh
(619) 260-7573

Kroc School

About the Author

Kroc School

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies' mission is to equip and empower innovative changemakers to shape more peaceful and just societies.