Virginia Tech professor Jerzy Nowak has been named the founding director of the new Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention at the university. The announcement was made by Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee, with the appointment beginning July 1, 2008.

The center is a transdisciplinary undertaking intended to build on the cultural, academic, and security initiatives of the university’s community that evolved after the tragedy of April 16, 2007. The center will occupy space on the renovated second floor (front wing) of Norris Hall.

Nowak will step down as head of the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to take over as the center’s director, bringing with him a world of experience, literally. Before coming to Blacksburg in 2000, Nowak had lived, taught, and conducted research in Poland, West Germany, Nigeria, and Canada.

A dedicated administrator, teacher, researcher, and mentor, Nowak is adept at forming successful teams. He co-founded the Institute for Sustainable and Renewable Resources in 2003, and has been a key player with the economic diversification program headed by the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, Va. He most recently facilitated a multidisciplinary team of researchers and entrepreneurs to create a small-scale energy production system.

“Jerzy Nowak has demonstrated excellent leadership skills in several key areas over the past eight years.,” said McNamee. “He believes in collaboration and teamwork.”

Nowak has been an impassioned facilitator in the creation of the center, as he is the widower of Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, a charismatic French instructor who was one of the 32 killed that fateful day. He credits his middle daughter, Francine, with the initial idea. Nowak has been a champion of building new programs in the areas of peace and violence prevention ever since, presenting formal proposals both internally and to the Governor’s panel.

Health and safety, energy issues, environmental sustainability, socio-economic disparities, food, education, shelter, public and cross-cultural communication are just a few of the factors affecting human security and therefore, ultimately, peace. Nowak envisions that the new center will connect faculty, students, and staff from across the university in the formation of national and international teams, creating new concepts and solutions.

The Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention has already attracted many volunteers and Nowak concedes that the original concept has evolved into a very ambitious agenda. He says he believes the center will “facilitate collaboration between applied and fundamental sciences, and the humanities to develop new knowledge and provide services to the global society.”

The center has adopted three thematic areas that capture, focus, and leverage key strengths across the university and provide opportunities for partnerships with external entities: prevention of violence, peace studies, and global security. Undergraduate and graduate students will work in collaborative teams as they pursue a shared set of academic, research, and service-oriented goals.

A minor in peace studies will also be developed. An interdisciplinary field that encompasses both theoretical understanding and practical features that will actively engage students, the new curriculum will be administered through the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. A central feature of the minor will be an intensive practicum or field placement that will provide students the opportunity to participate in exchange programs and collaborations with other peace programs in the United States and internationally.

The Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention will be structured as a university center, initially under the administrative oversight of the Institute for Society, Culture and Environment’s Stakeholders Committee. It will be managed by Nowak in consultation with an appointed advisory board. Although a start-up operating budget will be provided by Virginia Tech, the center will actively solicit funds through grants and private donations.

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