A new five-year, bachelor’s-to-master’s degree program at Creighton University is combining two of the University’s signature curricula to help streamline academic, career and missional goals for students who are looking to use their education to make a wider societal contribution.
The partnership between the Justice and Peace Studies (JPS) bachelor’s degree program in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution master’s program in the Graduate College’s Werner Institute gives senior Justice and Society (JAS) majors the opportunity to apply six credits of 500-level undergraduate study to the graduate degree, while applying six credits of graduate study toward completion of the undergraduate degree.
In other words, two required courses in each curriculum count as two elective courses in the other. The master’s is then completed in the following summer, fall and spring semester terms. A student receiving a BA in Justice and Society in May 2018, could complete the MS in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution in May 2019.
More than that, said Roger Bergman, PhD, founding director of the Justice and Peace Studies Program, the combined program provides a dovetail to help students interested in honing their skills in a challenging and practical forum.
“For people who are interested in pursuing justice and peace as a career, this program will be able to strengthen that actual peacemaking component,” Bergman said. “To now be able to say to a student that you can spend one more year at Creighton and get a chance to look at how mediation works, how negotiations take place, I think that does bear out for what a number of our students seek to do with a Justice and Society degree. This program is one of the most mission-driven academic programs on campus, putting faith that does justice front and center. This path is another way we help students do that.”
After all, negotiation and conflict resolution isn’t just hashed out in peace treaty talks or corporate mergers. It happens every day in workplace settings, in public meetings, on the streets.
“Negotiation and conflict resolution involves a lot of introspection and a lot of asking yourself about where you’re coming from, where others are coming from, how adaptable you can be,” said Werner Institute Associate Director Bryan Hanson, EdD’16, who said the two programs are a natural fit and speak volumes to Creighton’s mission and Creighton students who choose to take that mission on from the roots. “It’s about seeking out options that can benefit the whole and seeing beyond your perspectives. That’s what makes this partnership so wonderful and, ultimately, we hope, attractive to students who already see Creighton as a place where they can gain that perspective."
Current juniors in the JPS program are submitting applications now and the new program hopes to graduate its first master’s students in 2019.
“It’s a wonderful partnership,” Hanson said. “There have been a handful of Justice and Peace students who have done the traditional two-year master’s degree program and I think all of them would say that the program helped them to gain new, practical perspectives on how peace and justice are at work in our world every day. This new program continues that work of helping students to bring their passions for justice and peace out into the world and to be able to do so in five years and with savings in tuition.”
Moreover, students graduating with the BA and wishing to delay entry into the master’s program to pursue other work in the field can do so. And there’s also an online option for students looking to live and work in community while still getting ahead academically.
“There are great options that go with this that allow students to continue to reflect the Creighton mission,” said Mary Lee Brock, an assistant professor in the Werner Institute. “Living in community, being for and with others, is a huge part of the skills and sensibilities for students taking on this curriculum.”
And just as with the traditional two-year master’s program in the Werner Institute, students have wider experiences than the coursework. Assistantships with the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice are a possibility, as are other service opportunities with Creighton’s partners around the Omaha area.
Kelly Tadeo Orbik, BA’06, MS’08, who graduated the JPS and NCR programs in the traditional sequence and now serves as associate director for the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice, said the two degrees create a continuum through which students grow toward a calling to work for justice and peace.
“As I prepared to graduate with the Justice and Society major, I was confident in my abilities to critically analyze social justice issues from an ethical perspective,” she said. “I valued the interdisciplinary approach that the JAS major integrated across our plan of studies. When I pondered what I could practically do to build peace in our world, my path was not yet clear. When I heard about the Werner Institute, I was very excited to see such a clear path for myself. I brought the best of the Ignatian tradition to live ‘a faith that does justice’ to classes in negotiation, mediation, international law, and a course on truth and reconciliation commissions. I left the program with an important credential and a deep appreciation for the complexity of conflict engagement.”
During her master’s degree practicum, Tadeo Orbik facilitated a workshop on alternatives to violence for inmates at the Omaha Correctional Center and for families in rural El Salvador.
She also served as a mediator for divorcing families, helping to create safe and meaningful plans for the on-going parenting of children. She also worked with non-violent juvenile offenders and even with parties engaged in disputes in small-claims court.
For Claudia Brock, BA’16, who completed a Justice and Society degree and is now engaged as a youth and social services worker in a South Bronx neighborhood of New York City, the idea of an advanced degree, especially after her experience living in community, makes sense as a means of expanding theories of justice and putting them into practice.
“So much work in the JPS field is about issues that are tied to the identities and worldview of people — the environment, women’s rights, immigrant’s rights, justice reform, LGBTQ+ rights, race relations, and so much more,” Brock said. “In navigating how to work on these causes in both a public and private realm there needs to be open dialogue and the ability to foster conversation with people who may be on opposing sides on an issue. An NCR degree would build upon the knowledge acquired through JPS courses and inform how to best work for social justice. Whether it’s community organizing, crafting public policy or working in social services, the ability to have a dialogue and work with a variety of people and personalities is invaluable and I believe that skill would be strengthened with an NCR degree.”
Bergman, who will retire at the end of the spring semester, said he was pleased to see this program come into sharper focus as he prepares to end a 28-year tenure at Creighton which saw him commence the Justice and Peace Studies program as a minor field of study, become a major, and now have a direct pathway to a graduate degree. To date, about 175 people have graduated with either a minor or major in the program.
“We continue to see that this is part of the Jesuit educational mission that people get most excited about,” Bergman said. “People understand the attraction of working on advocacy for marginalized groups and combating racism. It’s in the news almost every day. There’s always going to be a demand for people to work for justice and peace. It’s just a human condition.”