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Gustavus and social justice

Under the leadership of President Edgar Carlson and with the support of the Ober (Mardag) Foundation, a group of people connected with Gustavus Adolphus College in the 1950s and ‘60s established a program in peace studies.

“A unique component of the program when it was founded was that it was a co-curricular program designed to infuse Gustavus with peace education,” explained Mimi Gerstbauer, director of peace studies at the college. The development of a specific major or minor was not the intention of this program at that time. Eventually, several decades later, a minor in peace studies became available.

The college’s interest in and commitment to addressing social issues had been established even before this program. The college library, completed in 1948, was dedicated to Count Folke Bernadotte, the U.N. mediator in Palestine. In 1950 the college established the Folke Bernadotte Memorial Foundation, which brought world leaders to campus.

Gustavus’ effort was part of the second wave of peace studies programs, according to Gerstbauer. “The first wave was focused on peace research and and disarmament post atom-bomb,” she explained. “Of course, the field of peace studies has changed and grown tremendously since then.”

The second wave was a response to the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The nuclear threat of the 1980s was the source of the third wave.

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