An Interview with the 2023 Student Peace Conference Planning Committee

Author: Lisa Gallagher

The Notre Dame Student Peace Conference, endowed by Joan B. Kroc and sponsored by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, is an annual gathering organized by students for students. Celebrating its 30th year, its mission is to provide space for undergraduate and graduate students from colleges and universities across the globe to engage in discussions about peacebuilding, social justice and conflict transformation. 

Each year, the conference draws hundreds of students  to Notre Dame from across the continental United States and around the world, both in person and virtually. The conference will take place in this hybrid format on April 14-15, 2023. Registration is free, and materials and meals are provided to on-site participants.

This year’s event will focus on the theme, “Voices: Naming War, Speaking Peace,” and is being led by two student co-organizers:

  • Allison Doctor (‘23), Spanish Language and Literature; Global Affairs (Peace Studies)
  • Jennifer (Jenn) Eburuoh (‘23), Environmental Sciences; Global Affairs (Peace Studies)

Here, the conference planners reflect on this year’s conference theme, their hopes for the event, and the unique perspectives students can bring to the concept of peace and justice.

How did you decide on this year’s theme, “Voices: Naming War, Speaking Peace”?

Jenn: Our concept emerged from discussions about the importance of narratives and peacebuilding. Both Allison and I had taken classes with Prof. Rachel Sweet, and she emphasized the importance of understanding narratives on the ground--realities of peacebuilding that aren’t always captured in academic studies or in the media. We were inspired by the idea of amplifying these narratives to understand the true realities of what peacebuilding looks like. 

How did you come to co-chair this year’s Student Peace Conference?

Allison: The call for applications went out over the summer, inviting anyone who is affiliated with the undergraduate program in peace studies to apply to co-chair the conference. I love peace studies and this program. I thought it would be a great way to end my senior year by putting all my efforts into this conference.

Jenn: I remember reading the call for applications and being attracted to the idea of seeing behind the scenes of what the Kroc Institute does. The conference is also a really good way to engage the Kroc student body, especially undergrads, in an academic setting for the first time. 

Are there particular sessions or events that you are looking forward to as part of the conference?

Jenn: I am excited for some of the unique presentations that we will have. We have applications from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and I’m interested in seeing how these presenters will connect to our theme. I am also excited for some panels that we’re offering--some will focus on interreligious dialogue and peacebuilding, while others will address environmental peacebuilding. I also think the art exhibits will be fascinating.

Allison: To add to Jenn’s comment about the art exhibits, we have two MFAs here at Notre Dame with very different perspectives who will display their artwork throughout the conference weekend. We are really excited about this, as it’s interesting to see how their art is tied to peacebuilding. I am also thrilled about our keynote this year.

Who is this year’s keynote speaker?

Allison: Dr. Sara Cobb, the Drucie French Cubmie Chair at the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, will deliver this year’s keynote address. Dr. Cobb is a leader in conflict transformation. She also studies how narratives can shape post-conflict societies. Her research interests amplify our theme this year of “Voices.”

What have you learned while planning an academic conference? What are your takeaways thus far?

Jenn: I’ve learned a lot about the diversity of tasks that are required to host a conference, and the diversity of peacebuilding itself. We have received papers that touch on many different topics, even those I hadn’t really considered that have such clear connections to peacebuilding, such as art and other conceptualizations of peace and society.

Allison: I have an immense amount of respect for event planners. There are so many moving parts and logistics. I have learned a lot about the effort, the time, and the creativity that goes into planning a conference of this caliber. It has been great to meet so many from around the world who have applied to present, as well.

What do you think is particularly special about this conference being planned by students for students?

Jenn: I think the conference is attractive because it’s a low-stakes environment for first-time presenters. Because it’s a student conference, it doesn’t have the same rigor or stringent academic environment where you might have to fulfill certain expectations or guidelines. I participated in the conference my sophomore year, and I remember feeling kind of nervous, but also secure in the sense that I was with peers and that they would be accepting and engaged listeners. Kroc Institute students are really passionate about peace and peace studies, and it was exciting to have an opportunity to talk with them. We also have a lot of room for creativity in how people present and what they deliver. 

Why should students attend this conference?

Allison: The presenters are excited to share their ideas and get feedback. We have a really great structure that includes panels, workshops, individual presentations and art. There are so many different ways for people to approach peacebuilding, no matter their level of familiarity. It’s also a great opportunity to learn from so many different voices on a variety of topics.

Jenn: The conference theme is “Voices: Naming War, Speaking Up.” We are appealing to hear as many voices as we can from around the world. Being able to engage with undergrads, Masters and Ph.D. students is really compelling. It’s a great opportunity to engage with a variety of students. 

To register and for more information about the conference, visit