A Conversation with Travis Morris, Director
By Isabel Weinger Nielsen and Katie Nelson ’13
The college established its new Peace and War Center (PAWC) in June, creating a space for supporting interdisciplinary student- and faculty-based work on the many facets of peace and war. PAWC builds on the previous Center for the Study of War and Peace (CSWAP), which was housed in the Department of History and Political Science from 2005 to 2007. The CSWAP, directed by Professor Reina Pennington, was home to the Colby Military Writers’ Symposium and initiated a student internship/oral history project with veterans. The history faculty invested a great deal of effort in the previous center but ultimately did not have the financial means to continue that work. PAWC hopes to build on this already established foundation by creating a multidisciplinary umbrella under which research, workshops, simulations, and other programming can take place. Travis Morris, assistant professor of criminal justice, was named the first director of PAWC, and will oversee the center’s work in conjunction with an advisory board.
Dr. Morris holds a PhD from the University of Nebraska, an MS in criminal justice from Eastern Kentucky University, and a BA in criminology from Northern Illinois University. He was an infantry officer with the 10th Mountain Division, U.S. Army, and a police officer in Lexington, Ky. Dr. Morris teaches courses in terrorism, policing, homeland security, and criminology; his research interests include violent extremist propaganda analysis, information warfare, and comparative justice systems. He has published on the relationship between policing, peacekeeping, counter-terrorism, and counter-insurgency and has conducted ethnographic research in Yemen and published on how crime intersects with formal and informal justice systems in a socio-cultural context. Here he answers a few questions about PAWC and the reason for its creation.
What is the mission of the Peace and War Center?
The mission of the center is to promote discussions and understanding of war and its effects; to convey that there is always a relationship between peace and war; to advance interdisciplinary knowledge for students, scholars, and practitioners on the relationship between peace and war at local, national, and global levels. The center aligns with our institutional values as follow:
- Dedicated to teamwork, leadership, creativity, and critical thinking.
- Respects the right to diverse points of view as a cornerstone of our democracy.
- Stresses self-discipline, personal responsibility, and respect for the law.
- Purposes to advance NU’s reputation.
How will the Center function?
The center will take a multidisciplinary approach and will support research, creative works, and public presentations with the goal of considering the broad array of perspectives that relate to peace and war. The center will function as a combination of a networking organization and a collaborative space for students and faculty.
Will faculty benefit from the center?
The center will provide opportunities for faculty across campus to network and collaborate on research and funding for interdisciplinary projects related to peace and war. The center will also provide a venue for faculty and students to showcase their scholarship through presentations, panels, and displays. It is our hope that the center will help faculty broaden research and networking fields, forging new relationships not only with other university departments, but also outside institutions—both inside the U.S. and abroad.
What opportunities will the Center provide for students?
The primary goal of the center is to provide students with additional opportunities to advance their academic interests. Specifically, we see the center as a base for students to collaborate with NU faculty and staff in pursuing research, accessing internships, and developing independent projects. In addition, students will have opportunities to represent Norwich locally and nationally by taking on leadership roles that combine academic and practical work. We expect the center to be an academic resource to support the overall intellectual culture of the university and build leadership capacity through a variety of experiences including:
- Study or travel abroad opportunities
Students affiliated with the center will take on leadership roles in activities the center promotes. For example, students will be provided opportunities for conceiving conference topics and also playing an instrumental role in making them happen.
Can you give me some examples of Center-related work?
In fall 2014, the center sponsored the “United States Grand Strategy Conference’” a two-day gathering of delegates from the U.S. military, think-tanks, businesses, and academia, as well as faculty and students from Norwich. For more information please feel free to visit the conference’s webpage http://libarts.norwich.edu/us-grand-strategy-conference/
In spring 2015, the Center held a series of four panel discussions on “Current Affairs and National Security,” which included Norwich faculty and students as well as members of the U.S. military, a journalist, and two Norwich trustees. Norwich students and faculty were key players at all events, and were given the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics with “outside “experts in the field. More information about this event t can be found at http://libarts.norwich.edu/newsletter/current-affairs-and-national-security/
What are the center’s plans for the coming year?
- “Leadership in the 21st Century,” a series of podcast interviews with all 2016 U.S. presidential candidates will be hosted by Sarwar Kashmeri, adjunct professor in political science at Norwich and fellow, Foreign Policy Association. The candidates will be asked questions about policy and leadership; questions will be determined by a survey of students and faculty.
- “Perspectives on War and Peace” courses are in the planning stages and will center on conflict and the relationship between peace and war abroad. The course is planned to occur during “Maymester” and will include a trip to a country that has experienced different forms of conflict and instability, such as Israel, Senegal, or Ireland. The course will begin with an intensive three- or four-day seminar at Norwich and will contextualize the material abroad.
- Host a Fulbright scholar from Canada in spring 2016 which will be chosen through a special competition. The appointment of this position comes with a $25,000 award, provided most generously by Mr. Fred Weintz, Jr. and family, access to all Norwich University resources, including Smithsonian Institution materials (Norwich is a Smithsonian Affiliate), and the Norwich University Museum archives.
- Help connect students with internship opportunities; such as the White House Internship Program.
- A NATO Advanced Training Course (ATC) in December 2015 is being coordinated by General Mihailo Apostolski Military Academy in Macedonia and NU’s Peace and War Center. This NATO ATC, “Countering the South-East European (SEE) Terrorist Threat,” will feature speakers from NATO and partner countries that will share their research and practices with SEE scholars and governmental officials.
During the academic year, four panel discussions will be held: Ethnic Conflict and Violence, Peace Keeping, Violent Extremism, and Conflict Resolution/Restorative Justice.
The Peace and War Center will be forming an advisory board composed of faculty across campus to assist in helping make this a productive and successful first year. A website is currently under construction.