History of the Center for Peace and Spirituality

The Center for Peace and Spirituality opened in the spring of 2012, building on the rich history, vision, and values that have guided Pacific University since its inception.

From its beginning as a Congregationalist school for orphans of the Oregon Trail, the University has embraced a commitment to service and community. Pacific's first president, Sidney Harper Marsh, poignantly wrote, "it is intended that the study and instruction given here shall cultivate the power of right thinking and ground the student in the principle of right action."

Through the years, the University has fostered and exhibited a concern for connecting and intimately relating its academic mission and identity with the world beyond campus.

Today, the University's Vision 2020 centers on the principles of discovery, excellence, sustainability, diversity, and global community.

The Peace Center supports that vision by creating a safe and welcoming environment for students to explore and express their spirituality in the context of peace, both within the individual and within society.

Early Days

Religious studies have been a component of the University's academic curriculum from the start. Peace studies, as a part of the formal curriculum, however, began in the 1980's. In 1983, sociology professor Vern Bates took the first step, receiving a grant from the United Church of Christ to allow interested faculty to engage in course and program development of a Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) program.

The first course offered under the PACS rubric was taught by English professor Michael Steele in the winter of 1985. By the 1985-86 academic year, PACS was listed in the University Bulletin, or catalog, and included 10 faculty members representing eight academic departments, led by Bates as chair of the department.

The PACS program continued virtually unchanged until 1989, when Steele became chair. In 1990, Pacific University founded the Humanitarian Center with Drew Mahalic as director. A precursor to today's Center for Civic Engagement, the Humanitarian Center provided students with service learning opportunities outside the classroom and worked in symbiosis with the PACS program.

New Vision

In the mid-1990's, PACS experienced a shift in leadership and in mission. In 1993, Steel became director of the Humanitarian Center, while also continuing as chair of PACS. In 1996, philosophy professor David Boersema took over the PACS chairmanship, while Ellen Hastay joined the Humanitarian Center as coordinator. In 2004, Hastay became director of the Humanitarian Center, where she remained until her 2011 retirement.

During this era, Peace and Conflict Studies was renamed Peace and Social Justice to reflect the idea that peace is about more than the absence of war. With the focus on social justice and the advent of the Humanitarian Center, the focus on extracurricular activity and service learning opportunities for students expanded.

Moving Forward

Under the direction of University President Dr. Lesley Hallick, the vision and commitment to the study and practice of peace is making its next evolution.

The Center for Peace and Spirituality recognizes that spirituality is a form of peace—an inner peace—that is in synergy with external, or societal peace. It strives to provide students with a safe and welcoming environment to explore and express their spirituality and to study and work for peace, both interpersonally and intrapersonally.

Founded in 2012, the Center is poised to create a space—physical and theoretical—on campus for interfaith connections and meetings.

It will continue to support the existing undergraduate minors in comparative religion and in peace and social justice studies, with potential future majors developed in religious studies and peace and social justice. Faculty also are exploring a certificate program in conflict resolution, which could support students' career tracks in pursuit of jobs in mediation and negotiation, human resources, public relations, lobbying, counseling, and management of non-governmental organizations.

The Center also will partner with other Pacific University centers and organizations to sponsor events and speakers on campus, to create internship and service opportunities for students, and to build Pacific's reputation and connections with regional, national and international partners, such as the United States Institute for Peace and the Oregon Mediation Association.