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Meramec Professor Attends Summer Institute at Notre Dame

August 11, 2014

Cindy Epperson  
Cindy Epperson attended the Kroc Institute's Summer Institute “Teaching Peace in the 21st Century” at Notre Dame University in June.

Cindy Epperson, Ph.D., professor in sociology at St. Louis Community College-Meramec, participated in the sixth annual Summer Institute for Faculty's "Teaching Peace in the 21st Century" at Notre Dame University in June.

The institute brings together faculty teams that want to launch or expand peace studies programs at their respective colleges and universities. According to the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, "Interdisciplinary peace studies programs enhance student learning, faculty teaching and research, and community and world engagement.”

Epperson’s interest in peace and conflict studies began in 2008 when she was selected to attend a summer institute conference sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Epperson shared the following statistics from a study of more than 5,000 workers completed by Consulting Psychologists Press.

  • The average American worker spends 2.8 hours a week dealing with conflict in the office.
  • “Chronic unresolved conflict” in the office is the deciding factor in 50 percent of cases where an employee chooses to leave their job, and is one of the primary causes cited in 90 percent of terminations.
  • Forty-nine percent of workers surveyed agreed that differences in personality triggered most of the interpersonal conflicts in the office.
  • Forty-two percent of employees felt that their employers needed to do a better job of addressing personal conflict in the workplace.

“As a sociology professor, I understand that conflict is a key concept in human relationships at both the micro and macro levels,” Epperson said. “People often answer ‘war’ when I ask the question, ‘What is the polar opposite of peace?’, but the correct answer is conflict. Conflict is normal and to an extent it is healthy because conflict leads to social change,” said Epperson. 

“I believe that the majority of STLCC students don’t realize what macro level peace is,” she added. “When you live in a peaceful (defined by world standards) society, you don’t recognize that it (peace) is there. You have human rights that are protected by law. You don’t worry about a neighboring country launching a rocket into your neighborhood. Peace is normal; therefore, you don’t recognize it until you visit or live in a country where it is not the norm.”

She makes the case for peace studies at STLCC.
 
“At the micro level, conflict is a daily experience. Conflict makes most people uncomfortable because they don't possess the knowledge and skills of conflict resolution,” Epperson said. “Creating an environment of peace, at both the micro and macro levels, is a process. It requires knowledge, skills and attitudes. The process is difficult, and most of us are not good at peace making and building. It is easier to respond to conflict with additional conflict. For example, you yell at me and I yell back, then it is to respond in a peaceful manner. Conflict resolution requires soft skills, which are the skills that most employers claim their employees are missing.”

Epperson says that conflict is a reality in our private and professional lives, requiring critical thinking, problem solving, seeing things from a different perspective, collaboration and other skills.

“As a professor, I strive to teach students the soft skills of conflict transformation. These are skills critical to success in all academic disciplines,” she said. “Therefore, attending the Kroc Summer Peace Studies Institute has increased my knowledge, skills and attitudes in the field.  I am excited to return to the classroom in the fall and share what I have learned with the students.”