UNCG Campus Weekly

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Thomas Matyok heads to Germany on Fulbright in December, for Peace and Conflict Studies

Photo of Dr. Thomas MatyokDr. Thomas Matyok was a career US Army infantry officer, serving 23 years before retiring from active duty.

Now, he is an integral part of UNCG’s Peace and Conflict Studies faculty. He is both the department Chair and Director of Graduate Studies.

The UNCG program focuses on conflict transformation and management, addressing peacebuilding at interpersonal, community, national, and regional levels.

Matyok has been at UNCG eight years. He has seen the department grow; undergraduate and graduate on-campus and online enrollments are strong, and distance learners have full accessibility to every course within its graduate, undergraduate and certificate programs.

“Greensboro is an excellent place to study and gain experience as a practitioner in peace building and conflict transformation, the community is a lab for the (program’s) students. There are opportunities for engagement with businesses, government and the many non-profits in the area,” he says.

His doctoral focus was on modern-day slavery at sea on international merchant ships. His research focus now is on the real-world creators of peace.

“What institutions of peace are present and how are they contributing to the construction of modern-day societies?” he asks. He gives as an example a military conflict drawing to a close:

“The military does its job. But (then the issue is) how to build institutions to ensure violence does not re-emerge?”

Some may pursue a “rational actor” approach assuming everyone will act just as expected. But in fact, he says, people after a war or a conflict are motivated by many things. “They’re human – not always driven by logic and calculations.”

Peacebuilding and conflict transformation is a rewarding field. Practitioners and researchers can make a great impact.

He and the department have created a dual-degree option with Germany’s University of Konstanz. He explains that UNCG’s program is more focused on peace and conflict studies on the interpersonal and community level. Konstanz’s program is more geared toward the regional and national level.

By students spending time in each department, they’ll see engagement and peacebuilding perspectives on both the micro and macro levels.

Starting in December, he’ll teach two courses and conduct research in Germany, funded by a Fulbright fellowship. He will teach Peace Operations: Analyzing, Assessing, and Preventing Violent Conflict. He will also conduct research on Re-defining Global Civil Society Development Through Multiple Student Exchange Options.

His current teaching tends to revolve around the institutions of peace, he explains. “What peace institutions build a modern-day society?”

A particular research interest is the role of religion and religious leaders in peacebuilding and conflict management. The role is often positive – and complex. Last year, he co-edited the volume “Peace on Earth: The Role of Religion in Peace and Conflict Studies.” Recently the United States Army War College Press published “Religion: A Missing Component of Professional Military Education.”

As a visiting research professor at the United States Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute – where he currently has a three year appointment – he has taught courses on conflict analysis and the role of religion. He will return there next year to teach as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the United States Army War College. He also plans to conduct research in the areas of strategic policy and securing U.S. interests in an era of persistent irregular and hybrid conflict.

By Mike Harris