The Gustavian Weekly

Nonviolence training

By Lareesa Sandretsky Assistant News Editor | February 17, 2012 | News

A practical approach to diffusing conflict

Thanks to a sesquicentennial grant secured by the LALACS and Peace Studies programs, Glen Gersmehl, the director of Lutheran Peace Fellowship, will be coming to Gustavus on Friday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, Feb. 25 to lead two workshops focusing on leadership and using nonviolence to diffuse conflict.

Gersmehl began his career as a teacher in the Midwest, and since then has worked in various capacities domestically and internationally. He worked in community health in New York City, with the elderly in Oakland, Calif., and as a delegate for the U.S. and Canada in India. He has led workshops, written articles, appeared on news and talk shows, developed hundreds of resources and given speeches.

On Feb. 24 & 25, Gersmehl will lead workshops on nonviolent leadership. The Creative Commons.

The Lutheran Peace Fellowship (LPF), of which Gersmehl is the director, conducts over one hundred workshops a year. The workshops cover various issues, but the one at Gustavus will teach attendees how to face conflict productively and nonviolently and use the vision of shalom and related tactics to address injustice and violence.

“The applications are widespread,” Mimi Gerstbauer, associate professor of political science and director of peace studies, said. “It’s very practical to help think about our interpersonal relationships to international relations … inter-community, inter-classes, inter-campus. How do we think about conflict productively? I hope it appeals to a broad range of people … business majors, education majors, nursing students … ”

In a document from LPF, Brandon Byrne, the director of a food bank in Seattle, said he immediately saw the benefits of Gersmehl’s training in his life. When facing a physically violent conflict, he “used the methods we had discussed….The difference in the result was amazing! In a very short time, I was able to de-escalate and end the conflict.”

This quote lends proof to Gerstbauer’s point that the workshops can appeal to many and is not just for dreamers envisioning world peace.

“Stereotypically, peace studies seem unrealistic, detached from reality and too hopeful or optimistic. That’s still an image we have to overcome. We want people to know this workshop is practical, not high up in the sky.”

The workshops are part of a three part series on peace-building. The first, a lecture on Dietrich Bonhoeffer occurred this fall, and the third, a lecture on peace-building in Colombia, will take place on March 26, 2012.

The workshop will include audiovisuals, exercises and discussions. The first session will take place on Friday, Feb. 24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Board Room in the Jackson Campus Center.

The second session will take place in the Interpretive Center, the building located in the Linnaeus Arboretum, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25. Students and staff can attend free of charge, but registration is requested for the Saturday session.

The workshops can be attended as a pair or individually. To register for the Saturday session, e-mail Gerstbauer at


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