What’s so funny about a Peace, War and Defense major?

The main Web site for the Peace, War and Defense curriculum is www.unc.edu/depts/pwad. Contact Wayne Lee if you are interested: www.unc.edu/~welee or wlee@unc.edu.

Selected classes

  • Terror for the People: Terrorism in Russian Literature and History
  • Air Power and Modern Warfare
  • War and Society in Early Modern Europe
  • Military, War and Gender in Movies from Medieval to Modern Times
  • The History of Intelligence Operations
  • Peace Settlements in Ethnically Divided Societies

“Terrorism for the People.” “Peace Settlements in Ethnically Divided Societies.” “The History of Intelligence Operations.”

It must have quite a reading list, the Peace, War and Defense major. Although you’d expect to find this curriculum at a military academy, it is offered at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hilland is one of the few undergraduate majors of its type in the U.S.

Wayne Lee, chairman of the curriculum, said that while there are some undergraduate degrees in “peace studies” and a fair number of master’s degrees in “security studies,” the undergraduate PWAD curriculum is extremely uncommon.

“‘Peace, war and defense’ is an odd name now; it might actually be better to call it security studies,” Lee said. “But PWAD is much more inclusive because it’s an undergraduate major as opposed to a master’s degree. The undergrad degree is much broader because of its liberal arts approach.”

The liberal arts background of the major is interdisciplinary. About a dozen professors in other departments, such as political science and history, crosslist their classes. This gives students the chance to study issues from many different perspectives, which they may not get if the major were housed under one department.

“I think a lot of times political science majors lack a deeper humanist background, and they want to go into government,” Lee said. “History majors tend to not understand the analytical tools that political scientists want to use, tools that they’ll also see when they go into government.

“I think of the Peace, War and Defense major as a good ‘splitting of the difference’ that exposes you to both sides in a way that’s better preparation for working [in the government].”

Many students enrolled in the major are hoping to get jobs in the security sector.

“This is quite unique among the liberal arts universities, and I believe that the closest thing to it would be at one of the [military] academies or Mercyhurst,” said Jenny Boyle, a junior PWAD major. “This gives our department incredible credibility in Washington and abroad; I hope that credibility pays off as I start my job hunt.”

Peace, War and Defense majors have a number of destinations. Some go to law or business school, or into the armed forces. While UNC-CH does not have master’s program in the subject, King’s College in London does, and many students go there to further their education. More likely, however, the students end up in and around Washington, D.C., Lee said.

“We have people in naval intelligence, the State Department, the CIA. Others go to consulting firms, the ‘Beltway Bandits’ outside D.C.,” Lee said. “A lot of people go in those directions, and a lot of people succeed.”

Boyle said she would like to work in “intel” with the FBI, National Security Agency or Office of Naval Intelligence as an analyst. If she can’t find a job in the “civilian world,” she said she’d look into joining the Navy as a naval intelligence officer.

The major was created in the 1970s as a backlash to the anti-war and anti-ROTC protests on campus.

“There was a move by people who wanted to keep the ROTC to create a program that would be appropriate and also be based in the actual departments of the university,” Lee said. “But for a long time after that, the major stayed small, around 10 to 20 majors total.”

Since the mid-1990s, however, participation in the major has increased. Last year, there were 256 declared PWAD majors, up from 21 in 1994.

Lee credits this spike to several events. First, UNC-CH opened more classes to the major, making it easier to find classes, and added more teachers with dedicated PWAD classes. Meanwhile, the end of the Cold War opened a new era of American foreign involvement. “Then 9/11 happened,” Lee said. “But even more importantly, there’s always been an interest in security issues since we started intervening around the world.”

And while the major owes its roots to a conservative movement, political affiliation is not uniform for students in the curriculum now.

“I’m always amazed at the diversity of the political opinions of students,” Lee said. “I’m absolutely convinced that people on the left think there are too many people on the right in the major, and people on the right wonder where all these people on left are coming from.”