SUNY Broome celebrated the campus’ single largest academic event on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 with the 2022 Convocation Day.

In this time-honored SUNY Broome tradition, the campus community reserves a special day where students, faculty, staff, and alumni can gather to collectively learn about a thought-provoking and applicable topic through a featured lecture, a time for questions and answers, and follow-up workshops. With a combined in-person and virtual attendance of over 500 people, the long awaited (post-covid) Convocation Day was deemed a great success by all involved.  

“As we are all sadly aware, the world is currently facing an abundance of political conflicts. Whether it’s the on-going struggles in the Middle East, the uprisings in Haiti, the Russian/Ukrainian war, or the domestic conflicts that plague our own nation, the Convocation Committee concluded that there was no better time for SUNY Broome to explore the vital theme of political conflict and peace-building efforts,” said Dr. Kevin Drumm. 

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Severine Autesserre, Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. Dr. Autesserre is an award-winning author, peace builder, and researcher who has authored multiple books about international conflicts and who has published numerous articles in Foreign Affairs, International Organization, and the New York Times. Dr. Autesserre’s recent books include: The Frontlines of Peace: An Insider’s Guide to Changing the World; The Trouble with the Congo; and Peaceland.

Dr. Autesserre presented the findings that she collected over decades of studying peace-building efforts in war-torn and conflict-ridden countries. Through concrete examples delivered in detailed vignettes, Dr. Autesserre explained that the most successful peace-building results happen when ordinary, local citizens come together to identify core conflicts and work together to internally develop solutions. She explained that, contrary to what most U.S. citizens believe, the implementation of a democracy, itself, may not be the answer. She also stressed the value of using internal citizens v. external, foriegn peace officers when trying to restore order. 

“If you put ordinary people in the driver’s seat, incredible things can happen,” encouraged Dr. Autesserre.

One illustration of a successful, grassroots peace effort took place in Eastern Congo. According to Autesserre, in 2007, Eastern Congo was plagued with suffering and death at the hands of local militias. While outsiders assumed that the conflict in Eastern Congo was simply the result of a proxy war between Congo and Rwanda, local citizens knew better. After hosting a series of small and large scale meetings, a team comprised of regional women’s group members, farmers, and soldiers identified the core issue (herders v. farmers turf war) and worked to establish cattle routes that made minimal impacts on area farmland.  

“The media often opts to highlight the conflict over the local heros, but these ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to confront conflict and violence should be featured and celebrated,” said Autesserre. 

Following Dr. Autesserre’s engaging lecture and time of questions and answers, SUNY Broome’s Buzz Tones hosted a performance in the lobby of the Student Center. Following their noon show, there were several workshops across campus which focused on the topics of grassroots activism in our community, the resilience of refugees, and the current unprovoked war in the Ukraine. At the conclusion of the workshops, there was a screening of the documentary, A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers, in TH 102.