(Level I – 2015)
(Level II – 2016)
I am a Lecturer of Geography & Peace Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Stout. Two years ago, I led the development of an academic minor in Peace Studies on my campus and serve as the advisor for that program. I hold firmly to the belief that education will play a key role in moving us toward a peaceful and just society. I have served on the Executive Council of the Wisconsin Institute for Peace & Conflict Studies for six years. I’m also the advisor to a Students UNITE organization on our campus, which has modeled itself after the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) of 50 years ago. I am attending the International Nonviolence Summer Institute to develop a deeper understanding of active nonviolence and how to incorporate it into my personal, public, and professional life. I’m also eager to learn more about the conceptual framework that MLK provided for his approach to nonviolence because I believe that will help me present it in a more approachable manner to my students, friends, and coworkers.
Jim Handley Promotes Peace in Wisconsin
By Ali Amani, November 7, 2015
For the URI Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, the participants working out of state try all they can to spread the ideals of peace and human rights. In an interview with one of these members, Jim Handley, a certified nonviolence trainer, he has taken the time to explain his motivation and passion for peace studies. Handley explained that he feels he is doing valuable and meaningful work at the Peace Studies Program he has developed at the University of Wisconsin. He also gave his gratitude to the people who have all worked hard in the cause to make a peaceful world possible. Handley has a high opinion of the people he worked with at the URI Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies especially, calling them amazing, inspiring, and great role models. During his time in serving on the Executive Council of the Wisconsin Institute, he has worked with and befriended many people who’ve been teaching peace in this area.
While teaching at the University of Wisconsin, Handley has been teaching lessons and lectures of peace and nonviolence, helping in promoting the ideals he learned at the Center. He has worked so well with the students that he admitted to them shaping his own way of thinking as much as he did theirs. When asked his motivation for beginning peace studies, he said that he has always felt the need to do what he thought was right, saying that “You can’t stand still on a moving train”. Since he was young, Handley has had a firm belief in the importance of changing things for the better, and that such is possible if enough people were dedicated to that cause. This philosophy has led him to his work on environmental justice. Receiving his B.S. and M.S. in Environmental Policy and Planning, Handley began working for several organizations that aligned in his passion to make this society a better place.
Handley claimed that the hardest part about what he’s doing was helping students understand how much power they had to change society and the way things are. He also describes the importance for the students to be able to identify forms of violence and oppression in society, and how to develop the skills required to bring about change. But something else that’s difficult, as Handley explains, is learning the discipline, sacrifice, and hard work associated with what he and other nonviolence trainers do. While working, he found surprising that many people agreed that our society was violent and unjust, and don’t take the proper action to make things better. Handley was very adamant about the importance of getting involved in the community and working towards a better future.
When asked what he thought was his biggest contribution to his work, Handley replied that he had led the development of an Applied Peace Studies minor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, giving plenty of students the chance to learn, discuss, and bring about peace. This class has had a profound effect on young learners, so much so that it led to the creation of a student organization known as Students UNITE. Students UNITE is based on a similar student organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, from 50 years ago. The Applied Peace Studies minor and Students UNITE have inspired so many at the University, that peace education has become a part of the mainstream in Wisconsin-Stout.
Handley’s work has become so well known throughout the state, that the Wisconsin Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies has asked him to lead the motion of starting Nonviolence Trainings on several public and private university campuses in Wisconsin. The project will take place over the next two years, and Handley feels fully prepared to take on this responsibility. He credits his preparedness to the URI Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, for training and educating him. Handley said that this is an excellent opportunity to make mainstream the principles of peace that nonviolence trainers live by and teach, and that it has potential to encourage hundreds to strive for a more peaceful world.
Handley also believes in the importance of asking meaningful questions, and encourages his students to do the same. In the interview, he said that too often are we involved in the “know how” as he calls it, instead of the “know why”. According to Handley, asking meaningful questions will enable people to recognize unjust social structures that need to be changed, and the lessons taught in peace studies will give them the skills to create such a change.
“Ultimately, we need to create communities based on justice, nonviolence, and peace. That will take creativity, imagination, and hard work. All that starts with asking meaningful questions and I don’t think we are currently doing enough to help students use questioning as a way of thinking.” –James Handley