Greetings, Colleagues,

This week, our ‘Purpose and Belonging’ message focuses on peace and the role it plays, not only in our theme, but in curricula and extracurricular activities preparing our students to promote acceptance, practice conflict resolution, and foster environments where social justice can lay ground for peace in our communities around the world. The interconnectedness and need for this work is highlighted in the social unrest and conflicts we face in Austin and globally. Recently, I learned that one of our TLED members is helping colleagues in Afghanistan who are trying to flee from potential persecution, while another TLED member is working towards a degree that will help with international peace efforts impacting his family in Lebanon. Others are supporting the city’s rehoming programs for our homeless community members, and one of our service-learning programs supported new immigrant arrivals to make them feel at home. Our ‘purpose and belonging’ theme is more relevant here than ever.  

In 1981, the United Nations General Assembly established The International Day of Peace and subsequently voted to designate it a time of non-violence and cease fire. Earlier this week, on September 21st, we observed Peace Day and people around the world shared a minute of silence and paid homage to the idea of a world without hate. The 2021 United Nations’ theme for Peace Day, Recovering better for an Equitable and Sustainable World, has this focus:

…as we heal from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are inspired to think creatively and collectively about how to help everyone recover better, how to build resilience, and how to transform our world into one that is more equal, more just, equitable, inclusive, sustainable, and healthier.

Closer to home we find Peace Day Austin, a local, collaborative, grass-roots initiative to explore, express, share and celebrate what peace means to each of us as we travel from 9-11, a Day of Remembrance and Service, to 9/21, the United Nations International Day of Peace.

Our K-12 partners are also involved in this work with AISD’s Whole Child/Every Child program focusing on integrating the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate campaign that empowers “schools to promote respect for individual and group differences while challenging prejudice and bigotry.” For the past 6 years AISD has been the largest No-Place-for-Hate school district in the country.

We also know that in today’s world of rapid change, technology overload, environmental challenges, competing information, health and wellness stressors and uncertainties, conflict resolution has risen to be a key marketable skill for employees and leaders. For example, one of the sample behaviors of “teamwork” in the list of NACE Competencies for a Career-Ready Workforce is to, “Effectively manage conflict, interact with and respect diverse personalities, and meet ambiguity with resilience.” 

Resume Genius, a premier online resource for jobseekers, recently “analyzed every skill listed by every Resume Genius user in 2020 to get insight into the abilities real people are leveraging on their resumes to find work in this challenging job climate. They found these to be the most in-demand job skills for 2020 that will continue to be valuable into 2021.” 

Chart shows the 6 most in-demand skills for 2021 including conflict resolution, communication, brand management, customer satisfaction, inventory control and data entry.

At ACC, we are committed to supporting peace and conflict resolution and are fortunate to have a Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) that was established in 2011. This year, the Center for PACS collaborated with El Centro and the Interdisciplinary Studies: Mexican American Studies Program to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month with a joint International Day of Pace and Hispanic Heritage Month event, “Pride, Intersectionality, and the Struggle for Democracy: Hispanic Heritage Month in 2021” by Dr. Paul Ortiz, author of “An African American and Latinx History of the United States.”

In 2015, ACC began offering an AA degree option in Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) through the Interdisciplinary Studies department led by Dr. Shirin Khosropour. In addition to theories and concepts related to peace, this program emphasizes skill-building in conflict transformation and other nonviolent approaches to conflict. Students at ACC have the option to pursue the Peace & Conflict Studies AA degree or take individual PACS-focused courses that are contextualized for their discipline, such as the Student Success Course-Learning Frameworks, English Composition I and II, Introduction to Sociology, Introduction to Psychology and others. 

Dr. Khosropour has been the visionary and champion behind these efforts, and we have a long history together in supporting her work through Innovation Grant funding, Course Development funding, hosting an Austin Competency Analysis Profile (ACAP) for the program curricula and most recently also funding the PACS Center launch of the Conflict Transformation Academy. This program was open to students, faculty and staff, and all sessions filled within minutes, showing the high level of interest at ACC for these critical skills.Dr. Sarah Lynne Bowman, Coordinator, Peace & Conflict Studies and Adjunct Professor of Humanities, shares that PACS, in partnership with the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and TLED, also contracted a 6-day intensive Social Justice Mediation course to increase expertise in key areas of the college and support the future development of a community Mediation Center. 

Support for peace efforts comes from all disciplines. Technology, for example, can advance the cause in new and innovative ways. According to a December 2020 article “Three Ways Technology can Promote Peace,” Geneva Peace Week featured discussions on “issues such as rebuilding trust in fragile societies, building peace in a world of big data, how social media influences conflict dynamics, and how to improve governance for peace in the digital age.” (Maia) 

The economic impact of peace and conflict is also recognized. According to a 2021 report on the Economic Value of Peace, “countries that have improved in peacefulness have seen an average 1.4 percentage points higher GDP per capita growth when compared to countries that have become less peaceful as measured by the Global Peace Index (GPI).” (Institute for Economics and Peace)  

The other dimension of peace is internal. Jay Shetty is an English author, former Hindu monk, and current mental health and purpose coach whose podcast “On Purpose” reached 64 million downloads in the first year and became the number one health podcast in the world. In my research this week on ‘Peace and Purpose’ I came across this August 2020 video interview by Action for Happiness where Jay shares how to find inner peace and live with purpose. It is a bit long but worth the time — and if you want to skip to his perspective on ‘purpose’ you can jump to 20:00. He explains that in order to make others happy, we must be happy – and happiness comes from living a purposeful, meaningful and fulfilling life.

In times of uncertainty or tension, I challenge all of us to keep these words and the premise of their purpose in mind and heart. Choose not to hate – No place for hate. Avoiding negativity may be challenging when emotions are high, but if we make a concerted effort to take a look at our words and messages, and use the lens of compassion and empathy, the next time our words may be a little more hopeful, a little more positive, and a little more peaceful.

Peace supports our ACC culture of equity, diversity and inclusion, our efforts towards sustainability, and more just and fair systems where everyone can find purpose and feel a sense of belonging. Together we can make peace possible through collaboration, connection and caring. 

There are many good people in the world….let us strive to exemplify the message of peace and be one of them. 

In shared purpose and belonging, 


Susan M. Thomason, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor, TLED

Maia, Ryan. “Three ways technology can promote peace.” Impakter, Society, Tech, Institute for Economics and Peace, 21 December 2020, (Accessed 23 09 2021)

Institute for Economics & Peace. Economic Value of Peace 2021: Measuring the global economic impact of violence and conflict, Sydney, January 2021. Available from: (Accessed 23 09 2021).