After serving three years as founding director of the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at Virginia Tech, Professor Jerzy Nowak is retiring and passing the leadership baton to colleague James Hawdon.
In its first three years under Nowak’s direction, the center has evolved as a hub for transdisciplinary research, education, and outreach. It garnered global attention last fall, when it hosted both an international summit as well as a symposium that attracted scholars and students from around the world. Nowak has been an impassioned facilitator in the creation and vision of the center as widower of Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, a French instructor who was lost on April 16, 2007.
“Many of my colleagues approached me shortly after the tragedy offering to assist in any way possible with the transformation of the site of the suffering,” said Nowak. “We shared a mission: to contradict one man's deadly imagination with a peaceful vision; a symbolic act honoring the victims, the survivors, and the victims’ families.”
“Under Dr. Nowak’s leadership, the center found a home in Norris Hall, engaged in outreach activities at the local, regional, and international levels, and established a strong student organization and peace studies curriculum,” said Sue Ott Rowlands, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “We owe a great deal of thanks to Jerzy for his commitment to the vision of the center.”
Personally, Nowak plans to dedicate more time to family. Professionally, he will return to the Department of Horticulture as professor emeritus to finish supervision of two Ph.D. students and contribute to mentoring young faculty.
Hawdon, professor of sociology who has been affiliated with the center for almost three years, will take the reins as director on June 25. “Dr. Hawdon and I have been working together on the development of novel approaches to violence prevention in rural and semi-rural areas,” said Nowak. “Our research addresses complex socioeconomic realities of communities with a high proportion of youth at risk.” One of these approaches includes integrating hands-on learning experiences by Virginia Tech students into primary and secondary school curricula.
“Building on the solid foundation laid by Professor Nowak, my vision for the center will continue to establish a community of scholars who can collaboratively understand the numerous causes of the multiple types of violence that afflict our globe, societies, workplaces, schools, streets, and homes,” noted Hawdon. “We will also work to connect these scholars with a variety of community groups and organizations at the local, national, and international level that can implement well-designed, evidence-based programs to address the root causes of violence and help promote peace. Finally, we will use the center’s resources to educate the next generation of scholars and activists who will ultimately sustain the center’s mission of preventing violence by promoting peace.”
Nowak and Hawdon are working closely to assure a smooth transition that will allow the center to continuing building on its reputation as a leader in peace studies and violence prevention.