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Professor Haas speaking at the U.N. about global education.Individuals with creative insight willing to dedicate their time and life to champion an effort for global change at a grassroots level are rare. Dr. John Haas, professor of U.S., British and Global History at Cerritos College, is one of those individuals.

In 2001, John created the Global Consortium for Sustainable Peace (GCSP). The GCSP is a network of global partners who share a common goal of bridging cultural gaps; examining global challenges and solutions; increasing global competencies; and fostering peace through global education, dialogue and conflict resolution. The GCSP raises awareness of global issues among college students, professors, “global citizens” and marginalized voices throughout the world.

As the founder and director of the GCSP, John reaches beyond the classroom to bring a deeper understanding of history and current global events to his students and students around the globe. Focused on the idea of understanding others in order to help teach students about conflict and peace, John has single-handedly spearheaded a program that connects students and faculty with some of the most important international leaders and thinkers of our time.

Primarily utilizing video over Internet protocol offered by 3C Media Solutions, the GCSP is broadcast on educational television, local cable television, webcast on the Internet and via live interactive teleconference to educators, students and institutions around the globe. 3C Media Solutions is a media distribution network housed at Palomar College through a grant funded by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

By participating in the GCSP, classrooms of students engage important figures from around the world in real-time discussion on current issues and events. The GCSP also connects students live with other colleges and universities worldwide to provide education and information about global challenges, global solutions and expand understanding of other cultures.

“These students are our future leaders,” John said. “If they can understand the history and events from a global perspective now, perhaps they will work toward building a better world tomorrow.”

The U.S. Institute for PeaceJohn developed the GCSP from an idea to expand the understanding of his U.S. History students regarding other American cultures and perspectives. The original project,the “Wisconsin Idea,” started in 2000 as collaboration between Cerritos College and the University of Wisconsin, Stout (UW-Stout). The project focused on bringing a greater understanding of the development of American cultures and historical events by working with students from different backgrounds and perspectives.

UW-Stout is a markedly less diverse campus than Cerritos, being approximately 97 per cent Caucasian. Cerritos College, on the other hand, is one of the most ethnically diverse community colleges in the nation, with large populations of students from varying cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. By joining the two history classes via live videoconferencing, students at both institutions were exposed to new ways of thinking about and viewing contemporary American life and regional American history.

Something else also happened in those classes. John’s students, wary at first of being involved with four-year university-level students, discovered that they were just as academically capable as the UW-Stout students. The students came away with a better understanding of their country’s history, an energized focus on learning and a greater confidence in their abilities. The project was so successful, John decided to continue and expand the program to reach out to experts at other institutions who could engage his students on topics in which he was not an expert.

Through live broadcast global teaching, John is able to take his students to actual locations—the U.N., museums, botanical gardens, libraries—and allow them to engage directly with experts and hold discussions and debates with students from around the globe.

Left to right: George Latio, former child soldier from Sudan; David J. Smith, the United States Institute of Peace; and John Haas, host of the GCSPIn light of the attacks against the U.S. on September 11, 2001, John realized the importance of having students engage with other students around the world to gain a different perspective from their own. This included collaborating with International Pacific College in New Zealand to help dispel anti-American sentiment overseas. The CGSP also partnered with Lucy Nusseibeh, director and founder of Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND). Located in Jerusalem, MEND promotes active nonviolence and encourages alternatives to violence among youth and adults throughout Palestine.

Recently, John has used technology to link directly with zones of conflict and potential peace as well as with the U.N. “I think it is one thing to study conflict resolution in the abstract, and quite another to dialogue with participants who are directly involved with conflict,” John said.

This past fall, David J. Smith of the U.S. Institute of Peace, spoke generally on the work of the institute and specifically about the problem of child soldiers. George Latio, a former child soldier from Africa, joined Mr. Smith in the presentation. Fawzia Koofi, Afghani parliament member, poet and advocate for women, has agreed to speak for the CGSP this coming spring.

Other participants John has engaged to speak include linguist and political activist, Noam Chomsky; Dr. Judea Pearl, father of slain journalist, Daniel Pearl; leading authority on Islam, Ambassador Akbar Ahmed; and Louisa Benson Craig, a Burmese activist.

“I like to focus on peacemakers who are marginalized by the mainstream media,” John explained. “Most of my guests are not going to be featured on CNN.”

John Haas speaking at the Pacifica Institute in Westwood, California about the GCSP.Using his own financial resources and spare time, John has spent the last eight years devoting every moment to building the GCSP including recruiting speakers, conducting the panels and paying expenses from his own pocket.

His recognition and awards for the project include the United States Congressional Award for Peace, an invitation to lecture at universities in Mongolia on becoming globally competent and the Cerritos College 2007 Outstanding Faculty Award. The U.N. joined the GCSP effort after John was invited to speak on global education.

Although accolades have been bountiful for John, funding, unfortunately, has not. “I do this in my spare time,” John noted. “I spend every hour outside of work contacting experts, organizing, building and promoting the project. It is really hard on my family. I spent last Christmas break working with a grant writer on a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.”

“There are many old and venerable universities flush with money mired in ‘traditional’ education. We have some of the most innovative ideas coming out of the community colleges, but people don’t donate to community colleges the way they do to a university,” John said. “It’s very difficult to find funding.”

One of John’s primary supporters is Doug Cremer, Executive Director of the California Community Colleges Technology Center and the California Virtual Campus. Doug has been working diligently to help find funding to support the GCSP.

Relaxing at the Surf and Sand Hotel, Laguna Beach, Ca on his 21st wedding anniversary.“Doug has really helped me out. I am so lucky to have met him,” John said. “He has really been an advocate for me and my work.”

John grew up in California. He received his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University in 1994. He also attended California State University, Los Angeles and Exeter College at Oxford University. He taught at Mt. San Antonio College for five years before moving to Cerritos College where he has taught for eleven years. He has also taught at the Claremont Graduate University.

John feels that teaching at the community college level is the greatest opportunity to bring real change to people’s lives. “There is such a range and diversity among community college students. There are some students who are really in need and some students who are so gifted they could be in graduate school. It’s a unique challenge to figure out how to challenge some and still keep it on a level that engages everyone,” John said.

John and his wife, Louise, just celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary. The two met in California but returned to her hometown of Oxford, England to marry at the Exeter College Chapel. Louise works for a pediatrician in Pasadena.

John and Louise have two teenaged daughters, Emma and Sophie.

John’s spare time in the last nine years has been solely devoted to working on the GCSP. His family has been very supportive of his work despite the strain it sometimes causes. “One of the most important goals for me right now is to find funding and maybe hire an assistant, so I can devote more time to my family. It has been difficult for them, but they are very understanding about the importance of my work.” <>

Jen Gednalske is a CCC Technology Center and California Virtual Campus Project Manager
and a TechEDge Editor.