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Q&A with Professor Dustin Sharp
The School of Peace Studies welcomes Dustin Sharp, a professor with a rare combination of on-the-ground experience combined with elite Ivy-League credentials. Professor Sharp is a Harvard-trained lawyer, human rights advocate and dedicated peacebuilder.
When you first came to USD, you were hired exclusively as a Senior Program Officer for the Institute for Peace & Justice. What drew you to the IPJ?
As an experienced international human rights lawyer, part of what drew me to the IPJ was the chance to continue my work in a context dedicated to the integration of both peace and justice. There are many organizations out there that work for peace, and others for justice and accountability. But to try to create programs that integrate the two—that was a new challenge.
With your background in human rights advocacy, why is it important for you to teach the MA students in the Peace and Justice program, rather than just focusing on your advocacy work?
I would not be where I am today if it were not for the excellent human rights program we had at Harvard Law School and some of my faculty mentors there. It’s the chance to have a similar impact on future human rights advocates—while at the same time continuing to pursue my own projects overseas—that makes this an exciting place to work.
What is it about the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies that impresses or intrigues you as a new faculty member?
Real world problems are interdisciplinary, but all too often academic programs are not. The great thing about the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies is that we have our students looking at peace and justice challenges through several different optics, including conflict resolution, human rights, and economic development. It’s my hope that this crosscutting approach will help generate new solutions in the years to come.
What courses will you teach in the MA program?
In the coming year, I’ll be teaching a course called “Transitional Justice and Responding to Mass Atrocities” where we’ll examine the difficult choices that nations face in the wake of genocide and other massive human rights abuses. I’ll also teach a course called “Human Rights Advocacy” that aims to give students some of the practical tools essential to human rights work today, including techniques for investigation and media work. Finally, I’ll be co-teaching a year-long course called “Foundations of Peace and Justice Studies” that aims to give all of our masters students the building blocks of three core disciples: conflict resolution, human rights, and development.
With all of the atrocities that you have witnessed either personally or through those you have worked with, do you have strategies that you use to help yourself to cope psychologically?
PTSD and secondary PTSD are real issues for those out there doing human rights work day in and day out, and this can lead to some pretty serious burnout. It’s important to take time for self-care, which can be a hard thing to accept for many human rights advocates. Each person has to find something that helps bring mental balance. In my own case, I try to spend as much time as possible camping, hiking, and road and mountain biking.
What is your hope or vision for the School of Peace Studies over the next 10 years?
When Joan Kroc gave the money to build this place, she wanted it to be a center that did more than just talk about peace, but one that went out and actively tried to promote it in the world. In accordance with that vision, I’d like to see the School become the premier center for peace and justice studies on the west coast with a unique commitment to integrating theory and practice. It is my hope that the School will be a place where students can come to master the essentials of the academic disciplines we study, and hopefully they will also get a chance to roll up their sleeves and get involved in a few real world peace and justice projects along the way. It is building upon the dynamism between theory and practice, between the School of Peace Studies and the Institute for Peace and Justice, that will allow us to make our collective mark.
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