Amaryst Parks (Ph.D. in Peace Studies and Sociology)

Author: Matthew Macke

Program: Ph.D. in Peace Studies and Sociology
Hometown: Florence, Alabama
Research Interests: Anti-blackness, education, systemic oppression

What drew you to study peace at the Kroc Institute?

One of my undergraduate mentors completed advanced studies at the University of Notre Dame, and they recommended that I look into the Kroc program. After graduation, I was initially more interested in gaining industry experience, so I joined the Connecticut-based RE-Center for Race and Equity in Education. While working there, I saw a flyer for Kroc at a conference I attended, and I took it as a sign to look at the Institute again.

How has being a part of the Kroc Institute community helped advance your research?

Justin de Leon [Visiting Assistant Professor] has been a major guide and inspiration. Through a teaching assistantship, I was able to work with and learn from de Leon. I admire his pedagogies, how he engages students, and his work on visual sovereignty and Indigenous storytelling, all of which has helped me to develop a clearer idea of how to weave together peace theory and education on an individual level. My current research has involved exploring how Black students imagine academic environments without antiblackness and in which they can thrive.

Being a part of a multidisciplinary research team has also helped broaden my perspective, especially being in conversation with psychologists and getting a better idea of how an individual learns from and interacts with their environment. In my previous work, I remember getting questions from young students and struggling to distill systemic problems into something that’s meaningful to a child. I believe that children have tremendous potential to comprehend and cope with trauma and big emotions, but that massively fraught, complex issues are not often presented to young people in meaningful and digestible ways. These conversations are helping to focus my own academic work and research.

What connections are you finding between the fields of sociology and peace studies?

I believe peace studies and sociology have a lot to teach each other. Sociology has developed strong definitions of class, gender and race and ethnicity, but lacks an expansive definition of violence, and peace studies can address this shortcoming. Similarly, peace exists in and responds to society, so understanding social forces is vital for building peace.