George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

How engineers and peacebuilders work together to construct harmonious futures

March 6, 2020   /   by Audrey Williams

Alpaslan Özerdem, dean of Mason's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution holds a picture of the Mostar Bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina after its post-war reconstruction.

To the untrained eye, peacebuilding and engineering might not have much in common, but a new peace engineering initiative at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) explores just how much the two fields intersect.

On Tuesday, March 17, S-CAR will host “Peace Engineering: How Technology Can Prevent Conflict and Spur Peacebuilding” at 6:30 p.m. in Van Metre Hall on the Arlington Campus. The discussion will explore the impact that technological innovation can have on conflict dynamics and highlight how Mason can become a hub for ethical, conflict-sensitive innovation.

The initiative comes as Mason transforms its Arlington Campus into a hub for tech talent, which will include a new School of Computing and Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA).

“In response to the complex peace and security challenges of our contemporary world, it is imperative that researchers and practitioners of different disciplines collaborate together, and peace engineering is just one of those critical areas,” S-CAR Dean Alpaslan Özerdem said.

The conversation is part of the university’s Arlington Forward event series, which explores the multidisciplinary ways innovation and technology impact how communities live, work, learn and play. It will also be the first public event inspired by S-CAR’s peace engineering initiative, which will support the studies and research of peace engineering fellows.

“Peacebuilders and engineers need to work toward the prevention of conflicts and building sustainable peace,” he said. “There is so much to share and learn between these two disciplines and George Mason, with two excellent schools in these areas of focus, is an ideal ground for peace engineering to flourish and make an impact.”

As a new generation of Mason students is educated to drive technological innovation forward, they will also need to understand the impact their work can have on societies around the world, especially in conflict or post-conflict settings, Özerdem said.

Discussion panelists will include Sheldon Himelfarb of PeaceTech Lab; Dr. Mira Olson of Drexel University’s College of Engineering; Dr. Ramesh Sepehrrad of the Center for Security Innovation; Lual Mayen, CEO and founder of Junub Games; and Sara Cobb, S-CAR’s Drucie French Cumbie professor, whose research on the Arctic ice melt with Volgenau School of Engineering professors Elise Miller-Hooks and Celso Ferreira highlights synergies between peacebuilding and engineering.