2016-11-09 / Top News

Kean University MA delves into genocide past and present

BY EVAN WILLIAMS

At Kean University in Union, N.J., an increasing number of graduate students each year are delving into one of the most painful but crucial topics in history and learning how it applies to today’s world.

One of three such programs in the United States, Kean’s Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies attracts an international cross-section of students and is located adjacent to human rights hubs in New York City.

About 35 students per year enroll from states such as South Carolina and Florida but also countries including Africa, Argentina, Cuba and Bangladesh.

“So we really have a strong international exposure,” said history professor Dr. Dennis B. Klein, director of Kean’s Jewish Studies Program and founder of the Anti-Defamation League’s Braun Center for Holocaust Studies.

The MA program grew out of discussions in New Jersey that began in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when legislators made the topic mandatory in K-12 public schools.

Kean helped train teachers on the subject. Many other states followed suit, requiring courses about the Holocaust and genocide.

Kean’s MA has broad applications for both younger students and mid-career professionals. It helps them compete for teaching positions around the country if they choose, enhance their understanding of genocide as it applies today, and enter a growing professional world dedicated to the subject. Many students take on internships with nongovernmental organizations in and around New York City.

“The whole human rights movement, the human rights sector of the U.S. and internationally has been one of those areas in social sciences that have been growing professionally with the establishment of nongovernmental organizations worldwide to address conflict, atrocity and genocide,” Dr. Klein said. “Many of our students are enrolling in the program so they can understand the problems related to genocide and the human rights response they are interested in becoming a part of.”

The MA offers 19 courses enhanced by interactions with visiting scholars, witnesses, filmmakers and photojournalists.

Core studies are dedicated to the Holocaust, which shaped the popular understanding of the term genocide.

But that’s only the beginning of recognizing what genocide is and how it effects the lives and cultures of people now.

“The conception of genocide often refers to the intention to destroy a people physically because an individual belongs to one group or another,” Dr. Klein said. “But it turns out as we’ve studied different examples of these conflicts that genocide could also mean the cultural destruction of a group of people, to erase their identity. A good recent example of this is occurring in Nigeria, specifically in the region of Timbuktu in which there is an endeavor to erase the identity of the folks who are living in that nation.”

For more information, contact Dr. Klein by email at dklein@kean.edu. For more information, visit grad.kean.edu/mahgs. ¦

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