New UC Berkeley Center to Study Science of Peace and Well-Being

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UC Berkeley's Center for the Development of Peace and Well-being was inaugurated over the weekend at a symposium promoting the academic research of childhood development.

Founded by UC Berkeley psychology professors Dacher Keltner, Stephen Hinshaw and Philip Cowan, the center will conduct academic research on how people get along in society. It is funded by UC Berkeley alumni Thomas and Ruth Ann Hornaday, who donated $1 million to create the center.

"The promise of a science of peace and well-being is great," Keltner said in a speech during the symposium. "We hope our center will help polish another lens upon human nature."

Nearly 70 people attended the concluding day of the first annual symposium, titled "Children who Thrive in the Face of Adversity: Navigating the Rocky Road to Well-being."

The symposium, held at the Radisson Hotel Berkeley Marina Friday and Saturday, included speeches by leading professors from Pennsylvania State University, UC Berkeley, the University of Rochester and Princeton University.

The professors were chosen to speak based on their groundbreaking research conducted in their fields, Cowan said.

The audience included representatives from eight academic departments on campus, local Bay Area schoolteachers, child-care practitioners and other Bay Area community members.

"The symposium was designed to focus on peace and well-being, to discuss childhood resilience and how to overcome adversity, to translate science into real-life practice, and to try to get schoolteachers to better understand their students," Keltner said. "We wanted to branch out into the community and move across the invisible wall surrounding UC Berkeley."

The project is designed to be a social science center where research in all social science fields can be conducted, Keltner said. It will provide fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students, host symposiums and speakers, and sponsor a high school essay contest.

"The center is an opportunity to take people from different fields, who ordinarily would do different studies, to come together for the common good," Cowan said. "Faculty, students, and community members are gathered here. If each person takes away something that they've learned today and put it into practice, then we know we've made an impact."

The symposium's focus on relationships between parents and children was well-received by community members in attendance.

"What's being done here needs to be done," said Berkeley resident Matica Manuel-Barkin. "We need to understand what makes children want to succeed, and we need to use that knowledge so that we can help those that don't want to succeed to succeed. This symposium works because we are presented with studies that look directly at the children and don't include the researchers' own biases."

The topics discussed at the symposium gave new insights, said Guadalupe Salazar, an anthroplogy student in a joint UCSF and UC Berkeley graduate program.

"The talks were quite interesting," Salazar said. "I like the qualitative data that the professors gave us. It takes good research to present this information to us-it is information that made us think. The information I learned at this symposium will help me with my own research."

The center will next discuss disenfranchised children when Jonathan Kozol, prize-winning author of "Savage Inequalities," visits in October.


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