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Center for Peace and Development

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Center For Transformative Peace Building and Development

About the Center

The Center for Peace and Development builds on OU’s longtime work with communities in northern Uganda. CPD brings together faculty and students from across the University’s varied disciplines to build collaborative partnerships with communities affected by conflict. CPD has several goals:

  • To advance understanding of and capacity for grassroots peace building and development. CPD sees its collaborative partnerships in northern Uganda as a launching point for enhancing global understanding of how transformative peace building is done at local levels. The Center begins in northern Uganda, but its aim is to collaborate with grass roots organization across the globe that face the challenges of post-conflict environments.
  • To work alongside local partners in northern Uganda to critically evaluate grassroots peace building and development needs, establish local strategies, and to work with partners to implement those goals. CPD works through community embedded/participatory research that builds long-term relationships with local partners to facilitate critical reflection on local conditions and needs from the perspectives of local partners. CPD, where appropriate, then works with partners to implement those agendas including helping partners source funds, expertise, and to build local capacity.
  • To support more traditional research in the region that is connected to the Center’s other goals. While CPD is committed to embedded critical research, other, more traditional research, is also important for the region and CPD seeks to support such efforts.
  • To develop tools and resources useful to other post conflict communities. CPD observes, records, and reflects with partners on their efforts to transform their communities. The Center will work with partners to develop resources for grass roots peace building and development in other contexts.
  • To offer opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to engage in community embedded research and service. The Center provides community embedded field research opportunities and study abroad. CPD does this by emphasizing cultural humility in a learning-by-listening context. CPD provides in-depth pre-departure training and critical self-reflection technics for all students.  
  • To establish OU as a leader in training students interested in careers in international development through providing unique locally embedded education. CPD seeks to develop a peace and development degree curriculum.
  • To be a resource to the larger OU community to facilitate critical discussion on global citizenship and decolonization. CPD is a partner in OUs efforts to bring critical discussion of global interests including colloquiums, book discussion, Dream Courses, etc


John Harris

John Harris, Ph.D.

John Harris is Assistant Professor of Regional and City Planning in the University of Oklahoma College of Architecture. Before entering academia, he worked for a number of years in the area of post-conflict community development in South Sudan. His research interests include the everyday practices of informal economic production, the needs of vulnerable populations and their capacity to make local change in urbanizing Africa, and the ways people meet their urban service needs via informal infrastructure systems. 

Sally Beach

Sara Ann (Sally) Beach, Ph.D.

Sara Ann (Sally) Beach, Ph.D. is a Professor of Literacy Education and the Grant Family Presidential Professor in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education. A former elementary teacher who taught in Texas, Korea, Newfoundland and Great Britain, Professor Beach has worked for the past twenty years supporting education for democracy in Slovakia, Kazakhstan, Czech Republic, and most recently in Armenia, Kenya, and Uganda.  She regularly presents the work of her international research teams (with members from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Romania, Slovakia, Kazakhstan) at US and international conferences on literacy research and instruction and has published invited and peer reviewed research and practitioner articles in journals in the United States and internationally. Her research includes early literacy, teacher development, critical literacy, literate identity, and opportunities for engaged learning in international settings. In 2017 she received the Pederson Award for Exceptional Mentoring of Graduate students from the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education and the Norman Vice President for Research award for International Engagement from the University of Oklahoma. She has been the Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on $2.8 million of external grants.

Executive Committee from Affiliated Colleges

John Harris, College of Architecture

Sara Ann (Sally) Beach, Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education

Jarrett Jobe, David L. Boren College of International Studies

Lupe Davidson, Chair, Women and Gender Studies, Co-Director, Center for Social Justice

Dave Sabatini, Director, WaTER Center, College of Engineering

Jeff Hargraves, Pros for Africa

Andreana Prichard, Honors College

Rhonda Kyncl, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences



St. Monica’s Vocational School for Girls

Gulu University

Women’s Advocacy Network

Pros for Africa


Core Programs of the Center

  • Provide administrative oversight for OU’s engagement in northern Uganda, and in the future, to other post-conflict countries
  • Collaborate with local partners to achieve their peace building, development, and women’s empowerment goals for fostering local peace
  • Organize campus engagement opportunities at OU that could include: conferences, symposia, book clubs, summer programs, or trainings at OU
  • Support research and community outreach activities
  • Provide community-embedded study abroad and research opportunities for students, including short term, semester long programs and thesis/dissertation research
  • Create peace building curriculum or methods that can be used in post conflict zones and in educational settings
  • Establish a Scholar-in-Residence program
  • Create an interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Peace Building and Development as well as certificates/minors for undergraduates


St. Monica’s School of Basic Learning for Women: An adult basic education program for women developed from Ugandan primary school curriculum teaching literacy, numeracy, English oral language, and preparing interested women to continue education into secondary school

Community-Based Water Research: Research with women about local water systems and a long term water plan for Gulu and Atiak campuses of St. Monica’s Vocational School for Girls

Medical Residents at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center campus may participate in an innovative, multi-disciplinary global health curriculum through collaborations with Gulu University Faculty of Medicine and clinical sites in Uganda.

Photovoice/oral history project: Works with the Women’s Advocacy Network on photographic documentation of everyday lives with formerly abducted women

Interdisciplinary service learning: study abroad program for OU students