Envisioning the Carter School’s impact: Our community weighs in

A white woman (Rosalynn Carter) in a white collared shirt with a blue t-shirt over it and a tan rimmed hat looks at a clipboard held by a white man (Jimmy Carter) in a white collared shirt with a blue t-shirt over it.

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter (left) and former president Jimmy Carter (right) participate in a referendum observation in South Sudan in January 2011. (Photo credit: The Carter Center)

On July 1, 2020, George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution opened the next chapter in its evolution from a center to a school when it officially became the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution.

For forty years, the school has been dedicated to educating peacebuilders and conflict resolution professionals from around the world using a multidisciplinary curriculum that incorporates cutting-edge research and practice, deepening the understanding of both the “why” of conflict and the “how” of conflict resolution.

According to Alpaslan Özerdem, dean of the Carter School, this legacy of leadership in the field is “very well-aligned” with the values of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

“In taking on our new name, we have invested ourselves in the important work of honoring the Carters’ legacy of selfless dedication to peace by enabling our community to build upon that same commitment,” Özerdem wrote on July 1 in his statement on the school’s new name.

When the new name was first announced earlier this year, Carter School News reached out to our students, faculty, alumni, and supporters to hear what they thought about the school’s new identity. Below, read what they had to say about their hopes for how the change to the Carter School will impact its students and the broader field of peace and conflict studies.

(The below quotes have been edited for clarity.)



In the global community, the Carters are synonymous with peace and conflict resolution, and they’ve done this by focusing on the interfaces between peace, human security, and development. Therefore, as a school, we’ll be expanding on their work in new ways, committing to carrying on their legacy, and continuing what they started.

Alpaslan Özerdem, Dean of the Carter School



Ajanet Rountree (PhD student)

Graduate Teaching Assistant;
Program Coordinator for the John Mitchell, Jr. Program for History, Justice, and Race

I see becoming the Carter School as a positive development. The name change mandates a re-aligned vision that includes an acknowledgment of race and its relationship to the various domestic conflicts often overlooked when discussing global conflict analysis and resolution. Additionally, the re-alignment allows for a re-allocated focus on meeting the practical needs of people in their communities. 

For my research, this means the introduction and implementation of more practice classes, mainly some offered on grassroots initiatives like activism and volunteerism, and [global and local] subjects like humanitarian aid/intervention and human rights. New courses will lead to the hiring of professors who recognize both the immediate and longitudinal ramifications of domestic and international solutions. Both will be revolutionary for this school and our field.

The new name and new vision will remove some of the complexities that presently exist within the field because of its focus on practicality. Our discipline, in many ways, remains stuck on the assessment and management of negative peace and international conflicts. However, as the Carter School, there will be a substantial movement toward the creation and maintenance of positive peace across domestic and global spaces.



What the Carters stood for, what they have spent their lives trying to accomplish, is a commitment to the same set of values, the same deeply held values, we at the school have…For our students, [this name change] strengthens an identity with two of the most consequential peacebuilders and peacemakers of the last and of the current century.

Kevin Avruch, Henry Hart Rice Professor of Conflict Resolution and Professor of Anthropology, former Dean of the then School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution



Photo of a smiling white woman with blonde hair wearing a black shirt and red cardigan seated next to a smiling white man in a dark green shirt and green jacket.

Christel McDonald (left) with her late husband, Ambassador John McDonald (right).

Christel McDonald

Member of the Carter School Advisory Board;
Independent Historical and Future-Oriented Researcher

Renaming S-CAR in these troubled times to the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution is a validation of the steadfast vision and determined creativity of its founders over the past 40 years. It also affirms the recognition of the Carters' longstanding leadership and their global work and service to building a brighter and more peaceful world.

The Carter School's principles, values, and excellence, as well as the Carters' spirit of human rights, of integrity, of honesty, and understanding of our individual and global needs, will continue to confirm the Carter School's leading and future global role in peacebuilding and conflict resolution.

I believe that the Carter School will be, for decades to come, a bright and inspiring beacon for all who dedicate their lives to global peacebuilding.



The Carters are our modern-day role models of what it is to live a life of integrity from the inside out. To be people committed to human betterment, and to live that commitment with integrity as they recognize all human beings as a part of one human family, deserving of respect regardless of their strengths, their wisdom, their wrong-doing, and their incompleteness.

Adrienne Kaufmann (PhD ’99)



Robert Harris (MS ’96, PhD ’03)

Chair of the Carter School Advisory Board

The Carters’ unceasing commitment to the global and local communities in which they live and work is a direct connection to the work being done at our school and by our alumni. The Carters do not just parachute in and parachute out. They work side-by-side with individuals, communities, and world actors to help, whether it is by building new homes, cooking and serving food, or negotiating ceasefires. 

Our work is first and foremost one of service, service to humankind. Their modeling and leading by example are what all of our students and alumni should be doing throughout our lives and careers. 



Sean Heravi (MS '19)

Member of the Carter School Advisory Board

I once read that a former adviser to President Carter would often joke that the worst way to discourage him from taking action was to tell him that it would hurt him politically. From a personal perspective but also broadly as a member of our school, I’ve always found that the work of conflict resolution should be as objective as possible and focused rigorously on the root causes that generate systems of violence and oppression.

In pursuit of this effort, our work often speaks truth to power—a virtue passionately exhibited both during and after President Carter’s term in office. Because of this and President Carter’s unyielding commitment to continue the mission—whether in service of reconciliation between parties of an intractable conflict or in promotion of human rights, our school now has a champion that will provide enduring inspiration. 



Michael Shank (PhD ’13)

Member of the Carter School Advisory Board;
Communications Director, Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance;
Adjunct Faculty, Center for Global Affairs, New York University

[This name change] is all about courage. The Carters are fearless in their quest to seek and pursue peace and transform and resolve conflict. Intractability, no matter how entrenched, has never been a deterrent for them. The new name reflects our community’s resolve to do the same. Leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to transform systems and behaviors. No matter how discouraging or daunting.



[Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter] set an example for all kinds of ways to problem solve, to work with others, and I believe that our student body will find that very grounding as they enter our program, as they figure out the things that they want to study and the things that they want to learn how to practice. And then ultimately, when they step out as alums, in the kind of work that they’re going to do, I think this is a proud legacy for them to be attached to.

Tehama Lopez Bunyasi, Assistant Professor of Conflict Analysis and Resolution


Reporting, editing, and introductory text by Audrey Williams.