Department Spotlight: Duke and UNC Partner to Teach Peace

Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center is one of six in the world

From left, Duke alumni Daniela Tort, Pranisa Ekachote and Vanessa Uriarte, volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in Durham in 2014 as part of the Rotary Center's commemoration of the International Day of Peace.

The athletic rivalry between Duke and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill gets plenty of ink, but beyond the box score, a variety of academic partnerships connect the two schools and their 11 miles of “Tobacco Road.”

Among the collaborations is one of the most unique in the world: Duke and UNC jointly manage a Rotary Peace Center for graduate students, the only American location out of six institutions across Europe, Asia and Australia. Behind it all is Susan Carroll, managing director for the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center.

Carroll, who splits time between Durham and Chapel Hill, oversees day-to-day logistics, as well as volunteer and academic opportunities on campus and the world. A 12-person board helps support the Center’s activities, comprised of faculty from Duke and UNC and two Rotary members.

With about 20 graduate student fellows evenly split between the two universities (22 for the 2016-17 academic year), the goal of the Rotary Peace Center is to teach graduate students about root causes of conflict with training in conflict resolution and an emphasis on sustainable economic, political and human development. In recent years, graduates have gone on to jobs with the United Nations, World Bank and government agencies in places like Seychelles, an East African island.

“Our goal is to not just provide a theoretical program in peace, but one that teaches concrete practical skills in human security, public health, social work and public policies,” said Carroll, who has worked as managing director since the Center came to North Carolina in 2002. “Every center around the world is different, but there’s not another one like ours because we have two renowned institutions working together.”

Five fun facts about the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center:

  • It’s one of six centers around the world with others in Thailand, Japan, England, Australia and Sweden.
  • The incoming class of graduate students for the 2016-17 academic year includes 22 students split evenly between Duke and UNC, representing 14 different countries.
  • Fellows admitted into the program are fully funded by The Rotary Foundation, which covers tuition, fees, room and board, internship support and more. Students are often in their 30s and come to the program from full-time work with non-profit organizations, government aid programs and more.
  • The Duke-UNC program has two courses specially designed for its program that can’t be found at any of the five other centers around the world. One class focuses on negotiation and mediation with study and hands-on mock situations. Additionally, two seminars act as a skill development and capstone project that include leadership and educational workshops.
  • Carroll, the managing director, encourages other offices and departments to collaborate with the Peace Center for programs, events or even interacting with the Center’s students. “We have high quality students like you’ll find elsewhere at Duke, but in our program you find someone like a medical doctor from the International Committee of the Red Cross who spent five years in northern Iraq,” she said.


Rotary Peace Center scholar Ignacio Asis, at right in polo, meets with displaced families and resettled communities in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, during an internship in the summer of 2016.