Peace & Justice Studies

Academic Program Introduction

The Peace & Justice Studies Program combines conflict analysis with the study of strategies for promoting peace and justice. The program looks at past and present efforts to reduce violence, end conflict, build peace, and achieve justice. The major involves coursework, research, and co-curricular activities. The program’s areas of focus include human rights, grassroots organizing, environmental justice, international and intranational conflict and peacemaking, and inequities of race, class, and gender.

Learning goals

  • Apply general theories of conflict and conflict transformation to specific cases, regions, and issues.

  • Practice theories of social justice, peace, and conflict transformation in the outside world, through internships, externships, field study, and the cultivation of intelligent compassion and a sense of justice.

  • Make ethical decisions based upon critical thinking, empathy, and responsibility.

Programs of study

Peace and justice studies major and minor

Students examine large- and small-scale violence, conflict, conflict transformation, and perspectives about peace and justice.

Course Highlights

  • Considered since the Renaissance as a homoerotic haven, Italy was for a long time the favorite destination of many gay writers in flight from the rigid sexual mores of their home countries. In Italy’s warmer Mediterranean climate, rich and sensuous figurative arts, and ancient costumes, they found a culture that seemed more at ease with a nuanced idea of human sexuality. After all, Italy is the country that gave birth to famous artists who became icons of LGBTQ+ culture, such as the painter Caravaggio and the poet Pasolini, and that, unlike other Western nations, never had laws criminalizing homoeroticism. Today, paradoxically, Italy is the Western European country which is most lagging behind in passing legislation in support of LGBTQ+ rights. From the lack of a full legal recognition of gay marriage and adoption rights to the failure to approve a hate-crime bill for the protection of LGBTQ+ individuals, Italian society still shows great reluctance to grant full equal rights to LGBTQ Italians. With these historical contradictions in the background, this course will retrace the steps of the rich, complex, and often tortuous path of LGBTQ+ culture in Italy from the early representations of sodomy, during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, in works by Dante and Poliziano, to the shaping of a political and social discourse around homosexuality in literary texts by twentieth century writers, such as Saba, Bassani, Ginzburg, and Morante, to the emergence of a political debate on current LGBTQ+ issues, such as AIDS, homophobia, transgender and transexual rights, in works by contemporary artists, such as Tondelli, Bazzi, and Lavagna. (ITAS 210 and PEAC 210 are cross-listed courses.)
  • Truth Commissions (TCs) have been a mechanism to uncover, document, and recognize human rights violations and to honor victims at moments of transition from dictatorships to democracies, and from wars to post-war contexts. TCs vary in their mandates, composition, and tasks, and have mixed records of success, despite the frequently high expectations. They often stand as acts of reparation, catalysts of larger processes of peacebuilding and dignification of victims. In this course, you will join a group of Notre Dame graduate students to study together the conceptual foundations of TCs and learn from different case studies. We will investigate the background and rationale provided for their creation, their mandate and scope, composition and structure, and analyze their work and post-report reception. We will pay attention to issues such as intersectional approaches of gender and ethnicity, the participation of victims and responsible ones, the complementarity of commissions with other forms of transitional justice, and the management and access to their archives. (PEAC 392 and POL3 392 are cross-listed courses.)

Research highlights

  • Students in a classroom talk in groups and write on a white board.

    Professor Catia Confortini is a scholar-activist focusing on the contributions of feminist organizing to the theory and practice of peace. Confortini’s latest book, The Handbook of Feminist Peace Research (Routledge, 2021; co-edited with Tarja Väyrynen, Swati Parashar, and Élise Féron), provides a comprehensive overview of feminist approaches to questions of violence, justice, and peace.

  • Illustration of people using different types of technological devices.

    Professor Nadya Hajj’s latest book, Networked Refugees: Palestinian Reciprocity and Remittances in the Digital Age (UC Berkeley, 2021), draws upon surveys with Palestinians in the diaspora and inside Lebanon’s Nahr al-Bared refugee camp to examine how online organizing can effectively solve dilemmas such as raising funds for funeral services or securing necessary goods and services.


  • Emily Greene Balch Class of 1950 Summer Scholarship

    Awarded to a student for an internship focused on the relationships between injustice and conflict or between peace, justice, and social change. Recipients have worked with housing justice organizations, childhood food insecurity programs, and many others.

  • Kathleen Dandy Gladstone Scholarship in Climate Crisis Solutions

    This summer scholarship supports a student with an internship focusing on the effects of climate change policy on historically underserved communities in the United States. Scholarships have been awarded to students working for the Sierra Club in Minnesota and the Eurasia Foundation in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Beyond Wellesley

Beyond Wellesley

Upon graduation our students find gainful employment, attend graduate schools, and take on service or government work in fields related or adjacent to the study of peace and justice. Many of our grads earn law degrees, and many work in the nonprofit sector. Recent employers include Immigrant Justice Corps and the Portland Grief House.

Alum profiles

  • Olivia Feldman ’22

    With funding from the Emily Greene Balch ’50 Scholarship, Olivia Feldman ’22 managed communications at Justice 4 Housing, a nonprofit founded and run by formerly incarcerated women that aims to end housing discrimination. After her internship, Feldman stayed on as director of communications, handling social media and managing a team of interns who designed and executed a successful media campaign.

  • Sophia Pechaty ’22

    Sophia Pechaty ’22 used the Kathleen Dandy Gladstone ’50 Scholarship to continue working with the Sierra Club North Star Chapter in Minnesota. Holding various roles on the Stop Line 3 team, Pechaty joined the ultimately unsuccessful effort to block construction of Line 3, a tar-sands pipeline that crosses 200 bodies of water and violates treaties between the U.S. government and the Anishinaabe people. After her internship, Pechaty stayed on as communications lead.

Peace & Justice Studies Program

Pendleton Hall East
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
Catia Confortini
Program Director