From the Acting Director

Acting Director Erin B. Corcoran shakes the hand of graduating senior Eliza Smith.

I write this letter while wrapping up my year as the Acting Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. It has been a pleasure and honor to serve in this capacity while Director Dr. Asher Kaufman spent the year at Tantur, Notre Dame’s Global Gateway campus in Jerusalem, on a research sabbatical.

I set broad goals for myself and the Institute this past academic year: namely, to fully back our burgeoning projects while also playing to the strength of the Kroc Institute brand, as we create new relationships and build on existing ones. Thanks to the dedication, focus and energy of our faculty and staff, we more than delivered on this vision in 2022-23.

Our commitment to intersectionality and justice was in full display shortly after the fall semester began, when we recognized the United Nations’ International Day of Peace on Sept. 21. With the theme, “End Racism. Build Peace,” Dr. Gwendolyn Purifoye, assistant professor of Racial Justice and Conflict Transformation, moderated a powerful panel featuring both academic and community leaders in the arena of racial justice.

Following this event, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Purifoye offered opening remarks for a panel on Jan. 17 hosted by the Kroc Institute and the Klau Institute for Civil and Human Rights, “Walking in the Spirit of Truth: Charting the Pathways to Racial Justice.” An esteemed slate of academics and practitioners spoke to racism in America, the impact of its role and positionality on pathways to racial justice, and resolutions to overcome systemic racism.

The Kroc Institute found new ways to showcase the potential of technology as a peace research instrument this year. One example was the fall semester course, “Digital Peacebuilding & Peace Technology, Computing & Digital Technologies,” taught by Dr. Lisa Schirch, the Richard G. Starmann, Sr. Professor of the Practice of Peace Studies. Students learned how to use immersive, specialized 360-video technology to document homelessness and gentrification around the globe – without ever having to travel from South Bend. These types of experiences are powerful: Our students learn how to use advanced technology, understand its intersection with peacebuilding work to create thought-provoking content, and strategize its potential to influence policymakers.

The Afghanistan Program for Peace and Development (AfPAD), which is housed within the Mediation Program, is a fledgling effort that continues to grow and that strengthens the Kroc Institute brand. Over the past year, AfPAD has convened approximately 50 leaders from different segments of the Afghanistan society, including women and men from a variety of political and ethnic groups. Collectively, they’ve addressed the country’s many crises and provided analysis and policy recommendations thanks in great part to the coordination of Aref Dostyar (M.A. ‘16), an advisor to the program and now the program’s leader.

Another pivotal point in the 2022-23 academic year came in September, when the Honorable Juan Manuel Santos, former President of Colombia, 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and a Distinguished Policy Fellow with the Keough School of Global Affairs, headlined the annual Hesburgh Lecture in Ethics and Public Policy. The ability of the Kroc Institute and Dr. Josefina Echavarría Alvarez, director of the Peace Accords Matrix (PAM), to bring him to South Bend stems from our work in Colombia through PAM’s Barometer Initiative, and the partnership we struck when he was Colombia’s president and tapped the Kroc Institute to monitor the country’s peace accord.

Acting Director Erin B. Corcoran speaks in Colombia in April at a PAM event.

This influence, this recognition of the Kroc Institute’s role as a premier, world-class peace studies institute with connections that span the globe, makes me proud – and increasingly aware of the potential we have to expand our network of advocates and collaborators.

Already, we partner across the Institute, and with the Keough School and its other institutes. A recent example is the Washington, DC-based event from April, whereby the Kroc Institute and the Keough School co-sponsored the panel discussion, “Overcoming Violence in Wounded Societies: Perspectives from the Colombian and Kenyan Truth Commissions,” at the Keough School’s Washington office. The Kroc Institute’s PAM and Catholic Peacebuilding Network assembled the high profile panel – including Rev. Francisco de Roux, former chair of Colombia’s Truth Commission, and Dr. Tecla Namachanja Wanjala, former vice and acting chair of Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and a Kroc Institute visiting research fellow. The event was standing room-only and received support from Humanity United and Georgetown University’s Georgetown Americas Institute.

This kind of collaborative momentum is the opportunity I see for the Kroc Institute moving forward that enlarges our sphere of influence. It’s what Anne Hayner does each day as our associate director for alumni relations – she networks with our graduates. For the Kroc Institute, I see networking as a means of building partnerships and simultaneously marketing the Kroc Institute brand and its expertise worldwide, expertise that each of you offers.

Internally, the past year has seen several staff and faculty additions and changes. Kate Chester arrived at the Kroc Institute in late January as our new communications program director, to lead an expanding team. She moved from Portland, Ore., where she had served as the senior director of communications and community engagement at Portland Community College, Oregon’s largest postsecondary institution. At about the same time, Lisa Gallagher moved from the events coordinator role to a newly created full-time writer/content specialist position. In April, Ari Woodworth was hired to replace Lisa as the events coordinator, coming to the Kroc Institute from the Keough School where she had worked with its Master of Global Affairs program. Jena O’Brien, meanwhile, continues as the communications and digital media specialist, also supporting PAM’s communications needs.

On the research and policy side of the house, Laurel Quinn was promoted to associate director of operations and policy, reflecting her increased responsibility to advocate for PAM with legislators in Washington, DC. In other PAM news, Allison Kielhold and Hilal (Omar) Al Jamal joined the Kroc Institute this past year. Allison is a research associate for PAM and its Barometer Initiative in Colombia, while Omar supports PAM overall as its program coordinator. Meanwhile, Dr. Susan St. Ville, the longtime director of the International Peace Studies concentration as part of Keough’s MGA program, retired in June. Her position has been filled by Dr. Norbert Koppensteiner, formerly a visiting research fellow at the Kroc Institute. Finally, Dr. Catherine “Cat” Bolten, director of the Ph.D. program, won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study enabling her to focus on Sierra Leone in the coming year. Dr. Caroline Hughes, the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh CSC Chair in Peace Studies, is the incoming director of the doctoral studies program.

Externally, there have been advisory board shifts over the 2022-23 academic year. Young alumni serve on the board, and in May we bid farewell and gave thanks to Dr. Janna Hunter-Bowman (Ph.D. ‘17), associate professor of Peace Studies and Christian Social Ethics at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, for her service on the board for the past five years. In her place, we welcomed Dr. Garrett FitzGerald (Ph.D. ‘20), assistant professor of Peace & Justice Studies at Pace University, as well as two additional new members: Kelsey Davenport (M.A. ‘11), director for Nonproliferation Policy with the Arms Control Association and Elizabeth (Liz) Hume, executive director at Alliance for Peacebuilding. New voices, alumni voices . . . each of you adds to the strength of our advisory board, making it even more vibrant and engaged. My thanks to the entire board for devoting your time and energy to serve as ambassadors of the Kroc Institute.

Past Board Chair Pat Danahy (left) is celebrated for his service by Director Dr. Asher Kaufman at the fall board meeting and dinner.

All of the momentum and change I’ve described taking place over this past year creates the perfect springboard for the coming academic year, one that includes the development of a new strategic plan for the Kroc Institute. Together, we’ll forge a path that harnesses our special brand of creativity, vision and energy to further the Kroc Institute mission.

As I close, there are others I’d like to acknowledge, as well. First, my thanks to Director Dr. Asher Kaufman, for his trust in me to lead the Kroc Institute in his absence. Welcome back, Asher; we have missed you and look so forward to seeing you again in person.

Advisory Board Chair Paddy Mullen chats with students at the fall 2022 board meeting and dinner.

Many thanks, also, to Dr. R. Scott Appleby, Marilyn Keough Dean of the Keough School, for his ongoing support, encouragement and guidance, as well as Paddy Mullen, chair of the Kroc Institute’s Advisory Board, who has sharpened my abilities to thread the needle between higher education and the business and industry sectors represented by our diverse board directors. And finally, I want to share my gratitude for Jeanine Dziak, who supports Asher and who has been an incredible partner to me this past year. Jeanine, you are invaluable and such an asset to the Kroc Institute – thank you!

Serving as the Acting Director and Executive Director this past year has kept me engaged with all that the Kroc Institute touches – and grateful for the learning that came with this opportunity. As I now give full attention to my executive director role, I look forward to finding opportunities that advance the work of the Kroc Institute… and I can't wait to be back in the classroom!

Erin Signature




Erin B. Corcoran
Acting Director

Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies