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Dr. Brian Polkinghorn Wins Prestigious Elkins Award

Dr. Brian PolkinghornSALISBURY, MD---Dr. Brian Polkinghorn, executive director of Salisbury University’s Center for Conflict Resolution, is one of four recipients of the prestigious University System of Maryland Elkins endowed professorship.

Accompanying the professorship, Polkinghorn also receives an $80,000 award. This represents the largest amount given to any of the four Elkins recipients this year.  “In Wilson Elkins’s own words, Dr. Polkinghorn is a thinker and doer who has helped this University ‘rise above the commonplace … to nurture the creative spirit of our youth,’” said SU President Janet Dudley-Eshbach.

Polkinghorn plans to use the award to provide students and community members with an opportunity to learn from one of the world’s leading experts on peace and conflict—Dr. Arun Gandhi. Gandhi, founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence and grandson of famed pacifist Mahatma Gandhi, is the first guest in SU’s new “Conflict Scholar in Residence” Program.

During his residency, Gandhi serves as a recurring guest lecturer for a course in nonviolence co-taught with Polkinghorn. Gandhi also presents the talk “Nonviolence in the Age of Terrorism” as the next speaker in the center’s “One Person Can Make a Difference” Lecture Series 7 p.m. Thursday, November 15, in Holloway Hall Auditorium. The series is free, but tickets are required. For more information call 410-219-2873.

“How many times do you get to take a class on Gandhi and nonviolence and hear lectures from a Gandhi himself?” said Polkinghorn. “I’ve wanted to do something like this with Arun for years.”

Through the Center for Conflict Resolution, Polkinghorn has been able to do that several times. The Center’s “One Person Can Make a Difference” lecture series has hosted world leaders and Nobel Prize recipients including Lech Walesa, former president of Poland; and F.W. de Klerk, former president of South Africa; as well as Arun Gandhi.

The series provides one avenue for the public to see the work of the center and what Polkinghorn hopes conflict analysis and dispute resolution students will aspire to. In 2008, SU adds a graduate program in conflict resolution making programs such as the “Conflict Scholar in Residence” all the more timely and important.

For the past 15 years, Polkinghorn has taught more than 35 different courses in conflict resolution in a range of areas including international and environmental conflict processes, theories and methods. He has been the recipient of teaching awards including SU’s 2006 Distinguished Faculty Award.

He has also practiced, trained and conducted conflict research in more than 30 countries taking part in protracted, highly complex and sensitive international disputes. Through the Center for Conflict Resolution, for example, his practice team spent 18 months assisting Croatia in implementing major judicial reforms including a mediation program. That program has helped remove some of the burden faced by the Croatian courts and has been a part of the process of that nation’s entrée into the European Union.

Polkinghorn has published more than 30 articles and book chapters on applied conflict intervention research in top-tiered journals such as International Negotiation: A Journal of Theory and Practice and The International Journal of Conflict Management. Since coming to SU in 2000 he has supervised nearly 100 students in practicums and internships throughout Maryland as well as abroad.

Within the Center, he designed and leads a three-pronged, student-focused organization consisting of separate teams that emphasize teaching, research and practice. The research team has won awards from the State of Maryland and national professional organizations while the practice team’s work has been recognized by federal and state agencies and departments.

The Elkins Professorship was established to perpetuate the name and contributions of Wilson Elkins, a former Rhodes Scholar who led the University of Maryland to new levels of distinction as its president from 1954-1978. When the new University System of Maryland began in 1988, Dr. Elkins agreed that his professorship should extend to the entire USM family.

Only three other SU faculty have earned the Elkins Professorship since then: Dr. K. Peter Lade, faculty in the History Department, in 1999 and Drs. Harry Basehart and Fran Kane, co-directors of the Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, together in 2004 and 2005.

For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at