On April 6, I had the pleasure of attending the dedication and grand opening of Point of View, George Mason University’s new Point of View conference and retreat center. Located on Belmont Bay–an inlet of the Potomac River less than twenty miles from Washington–Point of View sits on 120 acres on the edge of s state park and a protected national wetland. For now, Point of View is just a wonderful meeting place. Once the fund raising is completed, it will have residential units which will allow negotiators and others to spend extended periods of time there
There are other centers that can be used for private meetings in the Washington, DC area, but Point of View will be unique because it is dedicated to conflict analysis and resolution and will be an integral part of GMU’s School of the same name (scar.gmu.edu).
As its planners describe it on their web site.
Every day, we witness new acts of violence, civil war, and malevolent conflict around the world. Never has the world faced such a broad and urgent set of challenges and threats to international peace. To that end, The School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) at George Mason University is developing PoV as a unique retreat complex to promote research in conflict analysis, facilitate conflict resolution and reconciliation, and offer training to a new generation of scholars and practitioners. Appropriately named Point of View, the complex provides a tranquil setting for high-level domestic and international dialogues, academic research, conferences, workshops, and skills training – all guided by S-CAR’s conflict resolution professionals.
Or, as Dean Kevin Avruch put it in his welcoming remarks, he would like Point of View to become a Camp David for peace where people from all points on the global political spectrum can meet and negotiate with and also learn from each other.
Thus, Point of View will be a place where formal and informal negotiations can take place some of which will be facilitated by GMU’s world renowned faculty and their former students. It will also be a site where students in GMU’s first of its kind graduate
program can learn how peacebuilders do their work first hand.
And, if the discussions I had before and after the ceremony are any indication, Point of View will also be a place where the next generation of peacebuilding finds a home. Of course, I spnt a lot of time that morning with friends and colleagues, some of whom I’ve known since S-CAR was founded more than thirty years ago. Even more, I was impressed with the discussions I had with younger colleagues about the directions they want our field to head in.
- Solon Simmons, an S-CAR faculty member and the University’s Vice President for Global Strategy, and I talked about the role Point of View could play in building intercultural bridges as George Mason and other university truly become global campuses.
- Several faculty members and I talked about initiatives they are involved in to deal with conflicts inside the United States as well as the global ones S-CAR and we at the Alliance for Peacebuilding have normally focused on.
- I talked with students with military backgrounds about how Point of View could be a place for peacebuilders and Defense Department officials to meet, something which is especially needed in this the fifteenth year after 9/11.
- Several current PhD students and I talked about how we could use Point of View for strategy sessions as we try to build a network of campus based peacebuilding and dialogue centers, especially at those schools that do not have formal academic programs like S-CAR.
This was my first trip to Mason Neck. It will not be my last. In fact, I hope to see you there.