Inside Moravian
e-Newsletter of the Moravian College Campus Community 9/3/14
Headshots of Cantens and Denton-Borhaug are photoshopped on top of an image of Comenius Hall.

ABOVE: Bernie Cantens (inset, left), chair of the College’s Philosophy Department and director of its Ethics Program, and Kelly Denton-Borhaug, co-director of Peace and Justice Studies, will lead the new course, 'What is Peace?' The new 200-level humanities course, which will begin in spring 2015, is being funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Professors Bernie Cantens and Kelly Denton-Borhaug to Address ‘What is Peace?’ in NEH-funded Course

The timing of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ grant to fund Moravian College’s new course “What is Peace?” couldn’t be more appropriate, reasons Philosophy Professor Bernie Cantens.

This spring, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded funding for the College to develop and implement a new 200-level humanities course – beginning in spring 2015 – that will deliberate on the question, “What is Peace?” This will coincide with the College's IN FOCUS initiative for 2014-2015, “War, Peacebuilding and the Just Society.” IN FOCUS is Moravian’s college-wide innovative program to promote in-depth examination of complex issues from multidisciplinary perspectives.

“It couldn’t be more ideal,” said Cantens, who submitted the grant application last fall with Kelly Denton-Borhaug, associate professor of religious studies and co-director of Peace and Justice Studies. “It fits not only with what we are doing within our two departments, but also within our own scholarly work, and it enhances and builds upon this central initiative of the College at large this coming year."

Denton-Borhaug was asked by Gordon Weil, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, to co-chair this year's IN FOCUS initiative, along with Daniel Jasper from the Department of Sociology.

The Moravian professors believe the course, which will be offered four times during the grant period, will enrich the existing curriculum in religion, philosophy, peace and justice studies, humanities and the College as a whole.

"It was very striking to us, as we developed the proposal for the NEH grant, and looked at many other 'Enduring Questions Courses' at colleges around the country that have been supported by NEH, how many focused on violence, war and injustice,” Denton-Borhaug said. “However, nationally as well as globally, we have spent much less time thinking about what peace actually is, how to build cultures of peace, and how to encourage and support the work of peacemakers. This course will provide an opportunity for us to think with students in a sustained way about all these issues."

We hope and trust that this course will contribute to one of the primary missions of our College, to help students develop capacities for contributing to make the world a better place.”

– Kelly Denton-Borhaug

The course, “What is Peace?,” is a part of the NEH Enduring Questions grant program, supporting faculty members in the “preparation of a new course on a fundamental concern of human life as addressed by the humanities.” This question-driven course encourages undergraduates and educators to join together in a deep and sustained program of reading in order to encounter influential ideas, works and thinkers over the centuries. Beyond just the question of “What is peace?,” Cantens and Denton-Borhaug hope to address more complex topics such as “Is peace realistic in a world filled with so much violence and war?,” “What are the greatest challenges to achieving peace?” and “Is peace sustainable?”

"We envision that this will be a course in the best sense of the tradition of the liberal arts,” said Denton-Borhaug. “In addition to supporting our two departments, and the minors in ethics and peace and justice studies, students who are nursing or business majors, students in education or biology or beyond, all will find ways to take what they learn in this course and apply it not only to their major courses of studies, but also their lives in general. We hope and trust that this course will contribute to one of the primary missions of our College, to help students develop capacities for contributing to make the world a better place."

While the NEH grant application process was incredibly competitive, Cantens recalled he was optimistic the College would receive funding. 

“When we applied, I knew that there was just a five percent acceptance rate, but I was confident nonetheless,” he said, noting the course’s obvious IN FOCUS tie-in. “I didn’t think they couldn’t accept it. It was just perfect timing. Everything just came together at the right time.”

Cantens, chair of the College’s Philosophy Department and director of its Ethics Program, can’t help but express his enthusiasm for the new course. The new class complements and expands both his and Denton-Borhaug’s current research on forgiveness, political reconciliation, just war theory, and U.S. war culture and sacrifice. 

The philosophy professor will kick off the inaugural course in spring 2015 and complete a second installation in spring 2016. Denton-Borhaug will lead the same course in fall 2015 and fall 2016.

The reading-intensive class will be limited to 15 students per session, but will be available to upper-level students from all disciplines. The four-credit course will include four course units: Five Visions of Peace; Theoretical Questions and Issues of Peace; Case Studies of Peace; and The Future of Peace.

Through group discussions, readings and writing projects, as well as a visit to a local peace center to kick off the semester, the professors will push students beyond a simple definition of peace and introduce them to the complex notion of peace through its historical origins, evolution of meaning, and relation to second-ordered concepts.

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