Celebrating 10 Years of the Peace and Justice Institute

Ten years ago, the Peace and Justice Initiative — now coined the Peace and Justice Institute (PJI) — was founded with the vision of fostering peace and justice throughout the Central Florida community and beyond. With PJI Director Rachel Allen at the helm of the Institute’s work, PJI has realized that vision by infusing the PJI Principles For How We Treat Each Other into impactful campus and community events and curriculum. Below are 10 of the many ways PJI has inspired understanding, advocated for equality and lived its mission: All People. All Voices. All Matter.

1. Orlando Speaks
In the wake of recent incidents of police violence and declining police-civilian relations, PJI partnered with the City of Orlando to bridge the divide between officers and civilians through Orlando Speaks. Constructed as community dialogues where police officers and citizens can come together to share stories, fears and concerns in a safe environment, the program has been successful in helping local police and citizens to consider messages about the police, explore the impact of personal bias on our interactions with others, forge relationships and strengthen trust between protector and protected.

2. Campus Events
Inclusive by nature, PJI has facilitated an array of collegewide events to promote peace and justice. These events, which are hosted year-round, feature inspirational speakers, motivational films and forums for students, faculty and staff to engage in conversation and reflect. PJI also hosts two week-long, annual event series: Global Peace Week and Conversation on Justice.

3. Curriculum Integration 
From traditional degree-seeking courses to Continuing Education courses and programs, PJI brings its values and teachings into the heart of Valencia — our classrooms. Through these efforts, PJI exposes students to the PJI Principles and enhances their preparedness to enter their respective fields. For example, nursing students benefit from PJI by committing to serving with civility, and Police Academy students gain perspective about diversity, communication and trust. Thanks to the new Legal Education Action Project, PJI helps lawyers, judges and paralegals bring peaceful resolution to cases in a legal system built on conflict, and the list goes on.

4. Employee Development 
PJI’s impact, of course, isn’t limited to students. The Institute also focuses on infusing the PJI Principles into employee development opportunities, like the PJI Practitioner Program — a cohort experience designed to help faculty and staff work through conflict and enhance Valencia’s culture of inclusive excellence. (Applications for this year’s program are currently being accepted and are due by Friday, September 15, 2017.)

5. Advocacy for the Homeless 
One of the many beneficiaries of PJI’s work is Central Florida’s homeless community. Twice a year, PJI hosts a bi-annual fling that benefits the Coalition for the Homeless. Thanks to the event, homeless families in attendance enjoy a day of fun-filled family activities designed to bring families together.

6. Interfaith Gatherings 
A significant part of promoting peace is fostering understanding and acceptance. One way PJI accomplishes this is by hosting interfaith gatherings, like peace breakfasts and tours, that serve as an opportunity for those of different faiths and those without religion to share their perspectives and find commonalities between them.

7. Partnership with the City of Orlando
Well established in the community as leaders in inclusive excellence, PJI has been invited to present three times at Mayor Buddy Dyer’s Annual Neighborhood and Community Summit. The summit serves as an excellent opportunity for the Institute to teach others in our community about the Principles for How We Treat Each Other and the importance of inclusive excellence. Additionally, PJI has worked with more than 3,000 City of Orlando employees, including all police officers and firefighters, to introduce the PJI Principles and focus on building an inclusive workplace and community.

8. Challenging Conversations 
Many lean on avoidance as an alternative to unwelcome but essential conversations on issues like race, climate change, immigration and politics.To promote engaging in respectful, inclusive dialogue on controversial topics, PJI hosted a recent workshop that was completely student-led and has hosted multiple series of workshops at local non-profits and churches that support dialogue on difficult subjects.

9. Civic Engagement
Over the years, PJI members have served as community activists — working to promote fairness and equality via social movements and peaceful protest. This year, many PJI members participated in peaceful movements focused on protests for women’s rights and scientific discovery.

10. Safe Spaces
Finally, through PJI’s 10 years, the Institute has served as a safe space for people of all walks to life to express themselves and engage in reflection and dialogue. This safe space manifests through the many workshops and events PJI hosts, as well as the PJI Newsletter, which features news about the Institute as well as reflective commentaries and other original works on issues like peace, political engagement, volunteerism and so much more.

To learn more about PJI and the Institute’s work, click here.

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