Innovative Scholar, Mentor, and International Peace Advocate

Author: Joan Fallon

Robert C. Johansen, professor of political science and peace studies and a founding faculty member of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

Robert C. Johansen, who retired this year as professor of political science and peace studies and a founding faculty member of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, was honored April 19-21 with a conference titled “Global Governance and the Future of Strategic Peacebuilding.”

It focused on a central theme of Johansen’s scholarship and teaching: the importance of strengthening ethical and legal norms and international institutions that contribute to peace and justice.

Conference participants included prominent scholars of global affairs—including keynote speakers G. John Ikenberry of Princeton University, Craig Murphy of the University of Massachusetts, and Richard Falk of the University of California—as well as Johansen’s colleagues at Notre Dame, students in peace studies, members of the Kroc Institute Advisory Council, and Kroc Institute alumni who said their lives had been transformed by Johansen’s teaching and mentoring.

Moving Beyond Boundaries

Johansen is best known for his scholarly work on analyzing foreign policy from a global perspective and describing international relations as a global system, says Scott Appleby, director of the Kroc Institute.

“The central idea that informs everything Bob has written and teaches is that we have to find ways to move beyond boundaries, beyond exclusive expressions of our identities—whether they be religious, racial, or national,” Appleby says. “What binds us together is our common humanity. How do we embed that conviction in international legal norms and institutions, in order to ensure that each person’s dignity is protected?”

At Notre Dame, where he has taught for 25 years, Johansen was central to shaping the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies from its inception in 1986 to its position today as a leading center for peace research and education. He developed the institute’s innovative professional master’s program in international peace studies, which he directed from 1987-1998. He also taught and mentored generations of peace scholars and practitioners (many of the program’s nearly 500 graduates), who now work in nearly 100 countries.

Changing the Field

Johansen spearheaded the design and development of the Kroc Institute’s unique Ph.D. program (in which students are fully credentialed in history, political science, psychology, sociology, and theology, as well as in peace studies) and served as director of doctoral studies from 2008-2010.

Robert Johansen with some of his students at the 2010 Kroc Institute commencement

“Bob Johansen is the reason I came to Notre Dame,” says Laura Taylor, one of the first doctoral students in peace studies.

“I think the Ph.D. program has the potential to change the face of peace studies by being interdisciplinary. That vision makes it different from any other program and allows us to all be strong in our home discipline and in peace research.”

“Your ideas are changing the field of peace,” wrote Noah Salameh ’94, from Palestine, one of many dozens of former students who thanked Johansen for his intellectual and personal commitments. “Your thoughts, books, and teaching are in practice every day.”

“You’re a giant among my elders because of your wisdom, joy and commitment to making the world a better place,” wrote Michelle Parlevliet ’95, from Amsterdam.

Advocating for Peace

Johansen has served as program chair for the International Studies Association, past president of the World Policy Institute, and founding editor-in-chief of the World Policy Journal. He has held visiting appointments at Princeton University’s Center for International Studies, Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs, and the Center for the Study of World Religions. In 2009 he received the Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Peace Studies award from the Peace and Justice Association.

His major publications include The National Interest and the Human Interest: An Analysis of U.S. Foreign Policy (Princeton, 1980) and Toward an Alternative Security System: Moving Beyond the Balance of Power in the Search for World Security (World Policy Institute, 1983), and he co-edited The Constitutional Foundations of World Peace (SUNY, 1993). His scholarly articles have appeared in World Policy Journal, World Politics, The Journal of Peace Research, Global Governance, Human Rights Quarterly, Third World Quarterly, Mershon International Studies Review, and Review of Politics.

The Kroc Institute has excelled not only because of its commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching on peace and justice, Johansen says, but also “because faculty and students are animated by a spirit of compassion that has quietly woven its way into our lives together.

“One test of this program has become whether—because we faculty and students have worked together—someone’s suffering will be reduced, some person’s life will be spared, or some child who might have suffered genocide or war instead will live to productive adulthood.”

In retirement, Johansen plans to continue his research, writing, public speaking, and advocacy for peace.

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