posted February 6, 2012

Two Professors Chosen for Lilly Summer Seminar in Northern Ireland

Dr. Virginia Beard and Dr. Ernest Cole of the Hope College faculty are among the 15 scholars nationwide chosen to participate in the 2012 Lilly Fellows Program Summer Seminar for College and University Teachers, “Teaching Peace and Reconciliation: Theory and Practice in Northern Ireland.”

The July 7-28 event will be based at the Corrymeela Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, and is sponsored by Aquinas College of Grand Rapids through the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts, which is housed at Christ College of Valparaiso University in Indiana. The seminar will address the history of the Anglo-Irish conflict in Ireland and the move to a post-conflict society, with emphasis on the theory and practice of peace and reconciliation in a Christian context.

Both Beard and Cole focus on issues related to reconciliation in their scholarly work.

Beard, an assistant professor of political science, specializes in comparative politics, with an emphasis on Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as public policy.  Her research focuses on stable democracy, with a concentration on the roles of peace-building and reconciliation.  Her courses address issues of international development, gender, conflict, peace and reconciliation, politics of the developing world and African politics.

Most immediately, she intends to apply insights from the summer seminar in refining a course that she developed during 2007-08, “Gender, Conflict and Peace,” which she will also be teaching during the 2012-13 school year.  Course topics include active conflict versus passive violence, domestic violence, interpersonal and intrapersonal violence, and structural and institutional conflict, with Northern Ireland an important component of the course.

She also hopes to shape her on-going scholarship through the seminar program as well as interaction with the other participants.  Her recent work, with a journal article forthcoming, has focused on conflict and resolution in Kenya.  Ultimately, she would like to develop a book-length project that will explore the topic across the experience of multiple nations.

Cole is an assistant professor of English and Towsley Research Scholar at Hope, where he teaches Post-Colonial Literature, with an emphasis on Sub-Saharan Anglophone Africa, the Caribbean and India.  In his research he has been interested in the topics of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation in conjunction with a focus on post-civil war Sierra Leone, where he has been documenting the experiences of survivors of punitive amputation used as a military strategy during a 1991-2002 civil war that saw neighbor pitted against neighbor.

His research, which has included interviewing survivors who continue to be isolated in refugee camps nearly a decade after the war’s end, is exploring the way that the amputees’ self images are shaped by their injuries, and he argues that it is crucial for them to be provided the opportunity to become functional and re-integrated into society rather than left in a state of dependency, not only for their sakes individually but for the future of the country itself.

Cole is currently writing a book based on his research, and has also created a series of video-based interdisciplinary learning modules based on the project, working in the college’s New Media studio with students in the digital humanities and in the Mellon Scholars program at Hope.

A national network of 96 church-related colleges and universities, the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities seeks to strengthen the quality and shape the character of church-related institutions of higher learning in the 21st century.  In addition to the Graduate Fellows Program, the program's three primary initiatives include activities and publications for the network of participating institutions; a two-year Postdoctoral Teaching Fellows Program at Valparaiso University; and a program for graduate students interested in exploring the connections between Christianity and higher education and becoming teacher-scholars at a church-related school.

The other colleges and universities with faculty members chosen to participate in the summer seminar are Aquinas College, Azusa Pacific University, Baylor University, Loyola University, the University of Dayton, the University of Scranton, Valparaiso University, Whitworth University and Wittenberg University.