This spring, Joyce Neu, founding director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, left the organization she started in 2000 to join the United Nations as head of its newly created Standby Mediation Team. In her new position, the seasoned international mediator and in-the-field problem solver will lead a team of experts in international and constitutional law, human rights, security and other aspects of conflict resolution. The group will serve as a rapid-response force that can travel singly or as a group anywhere in the world to consult with U.N. peace envoys, as well as advise governments and other groups working to resolve conflicts.
Neu is short and slender, with an intense gaze. Her IPJ office is more workroom than showplace, with only a few mementos from a lifetime of travel. She leans forward when she describes the institute’s work in the world and its contributions to the university.
“Our most important audience is the students,” Neu says. “I’ve tried to build programs that would match teaching with action.”
That convergence is evident in the IPJ’s peacebuilding projects in Nepal and Uganda, where staff have worked tirelessly to head off violence. Neu’s favorite project, the Women PeaceMakers program, sponsors four women peacemakers from war-ravaged countries for an eight-week, on-campus residency each year, where they present their work and have it documented.
Men and women from the front lines of international peacemaking come to campus to speak each year at events that are free and open to the San Diego community. That visibility has led to the IPJ becoming one of the more influential entities at USD.
Confirmation comes from Denise Dimon, director of the Ahlers Center for International Business. “We have students and faculty who’ve chosen to come to USD because of the IPJ,” she says. “The IPJ deals with problems and moral issues that our people feel are important, and they want to be at a school that’s addressing them.”
Neu sees the institute’s success as a story of generous collaborations. “It’s been an amazing honor to create this institute,” she says. “So many people have helped, all over campus. Not only faculty — I.T. and finance and the library, every department has helped us.” School of Peace Studies Dean William Headley summed up the feelings of those who’ve been fortunate enough to work with Neu: “We will miss your capacity to inspire those of us who worked with you in the cause of peace, and your steadfast commitment to give more than was asked.“