U opens center for nonviolent human rights advocacy

By Rochelle McConkie

Peace is possible in the Barbara L. and Norman C. Tanner Center for Nonviolent Human Rights Advocacy.

Recently established in the College of Social and Behavioral Science, this center will promote, educate and inspire students to pursue peace and nonviolent human rights advocacy on an interpersonal level, both in the community and across the globe.

“It is a place that will focus attention on peace, human rights and nonviolence as viable objectives,” said former Salt Lake City mayor and Hinckley Institute of Politics director Ted Wilson, who will be directing the center.

“We will try to inspire students through debates, advocacy classes and speakers, and stress participation by providing paid internships,” Wilson said.

Barbara and Norman Tanner, who are long-time advocates of peace, said they hope to give the program the funding needed to make a difference.

“We hope that as people are more educated and there are more institutions working for peace, we can have more opposition toward problems and understand the problems, so that we don’t find ourselves in situations like we are in now,” Barbara Tanner said.

Deb Sawyer, daughter of Barbara and Norman Tanner, will also be working closely with the center, which started off as a program out of the U graduate school funding graduate fellowships. Sawyer hopes that her family can play an active role in the center.

“We want to nurture a sense among students of being able to make a difference in the world and carry that commitment for the rest of their lives,” said Sawyer.

The academic chair for the new center is George Cheney, a U communication professor and director of the undergraduate peace and conflict studies minor.

The center will work with the College of Humanities, focusing largely on interdisciplinary studies and bringing in other colleges and departments for internships, as well as bringing in master’s and doctorate-level students.

Manith Hang, a political science and international studies major, minored in peace and conflict studies.

“I learned that conflict can be a good thing, but as much as we want peace, it can be hard to come by because there’s always something more that people want,” Hang said.

The center, located in OSH, is recruiting students from the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center and is currently looking to provide internships locally, nationally and internationally. Internship opportunities will begin in January.

Through a “K-12 outreach,” the program will also bring in social studies teachers who are interested in issues and want access to current research and information.

Cheney hopes that the peace and conflict studies minor will evolve into a major, which would allow students to take a cluster of courses matching their own interests.

On March 1 and 2, the center will team up with the U Institute for Public and International Affairs and the S.J. Quinney College of Law to hold its first major forum, focusing on human dignity and terrorism. The forum will feature national and local leaders.