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New College's Insight Awards focus on war and peace

Ishmael Beah
March 26, 2013

Students who have taken or are taking any class through ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences during the current academic year are encouraged to submit entries for the inaugural Insight Awards competition. The awards are presented in conjunction with the War and Peace academic theme being explored in a variety of ways and settings across New College, the core college on ASU’s West campus.

Students whose entry is judged the best in each of four categories – Senior Research, Artistic Expression, Essay, and Social Action – will receive a Kindle Fire. The submission deadline is April 17. For more information on making submissions, contact Mary Bauer at (602) 543-2809 or Lucy Berchini at (602) 543-6091.

This year the War and Peace theme has been woven through the New College curriculum as well as numerous special events designed to engage the campus and local community in examining complex questions across the disciplines.

Questions at the crux of the ongoing discussion include: Why is so much of the world at war? Are there acts that can justify war as an answer? What are the building blocks of peace and how can we achieve it? Is peace an elusive ideal that cannot exist in the vexed human world? Would new modes of governance or thinking make peace more possible? 

“Viewed through the lens of the fine arts, literature, history, communication, and the natural sciences, the New College community has been working together to tackle these issues and help all of us develop our own more nuanced and thoughtful responses,” said Marlene Tromp, director of New College's School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies (SHArCS), who played a leadership role in developing and implementing the War and Peace theme.

An initiative of the current dean, Elizabeth Langland, New College began thematic programming three years ago with a focus on food, a subject explored across campus through lectures, presentations and courses, from the perspectives of the natural sciences, the social sciences, the humanities and arts.

Tromp, who will become New College’s dean this summer, says she looks forward to seeing the college continue the tradition in coming years of choosing a theme to explore throughout each academic year. That tradition will include courses in which the theme is woven into the curriculum of a number of linked courses. This year’s courses linked to the War and Peace theme span disciplines including communication, anthropology, political science, English, philosophy, arts and performance, and more.

“Having an academic theme creates opportunities for students to connect with New College and with each other,” Tromp said. “This is the type of intellectually and interpersonally stimulating atmosphere many students are looking for when they choose New College and the West campus. There is no better place than an interdisciplinary college that sees the relationship between all the pieces of the puzzle to take on such a multi-dimensional set of issues.”

War and Peace events kicked off last fall with a visit from Ishmael Beah, who survived being forced to serve as a child soldier in Sierra Leone. All incoming freshmen read Beah’s book “A Long Way Gone” as part of New College’s freshman book project. Beah’s presentation attracted an audience of several hundred. Today he negotiates with militias around the world to gain the release of child soldiers.

A warrior of a different type also visited the West campus. Maxine Hong Kingston is the award-winning author of “The Woman Warrior” and other bestsellers. She spoke about her experiences as a peace activist and her work guiding U.S. war veterans to take their experiences and write their way to personal peace. Hong Kingston’s visit also included a writing workshop for veterans.

Other War and Peace events have featured presentations from New College faculty including Amit Ron, Julia Sarreal and Patrick Bixby. A visual art exhibit, “Call and Response,” displayed works created by student and faculty artists in response to the War and Peace theme.