Finding Peace in the Middle East and Carroll County
One Psychology PhD Student Sees Unlimited Potential
Louis Boynton imagines a world without violent conflicts and helps people around the world and at home in Carroll County find new paths to peace.
Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan
Boynton, a psychology doctoral student at the University of West Georgia, journeyed to Amman, Jordan this summer to lead a workshop on restorative justice—a conflict resolution hybrid of mediation and therapy.
His workshop encouraged people to engage in restorative dialogue, listen without interruption, set goals and make plans to accomplish them.
“People can work to solve their own problems instead of getting stuck in the non-communication cycle of violence. Restorative justice creates solutions.”
The conference—themed “Transforming Conflict”—brought together respected academics and professionals from across the globe whose work advances different theoretical perspectives on conflict resolution. Steven Ury, co-founder of Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, and Farah Pandith, special representative to Muslim communities for the U.S. State Department, gave keynote addresses at the conference.
“At this particular time in the world’s history, in the context of the Arab Spring, this event provided an incredible opportunity for the University of West Georgia to participate in the rapidly evolving history of the Middle East,” said Boynton.
Though Boynton traveled half the globe to present his research, he knows the principles of restorative justice are just as applicable here at home. Boynton is a licensed professional counselor and assessment and intake counselor for Willowbrooke at Tanner, a community behavioral health hospital. And he chose UWG to pursue his Ph.D. in Consciousness and Society—one of only a few programs in the United States grounded in studying psychology as a distinctively human science.
Combining scholarly achievement with service to humanity, Boynton’s dissertation research explores ways to reduce restraints and seclusions of patients in psychiatric hospitals. His goal is simply to make people’s lives better.
“Louis’ work, which arose from a student-generated set of seminars on justice and dialogue, has been used in the local Carrollton community and in the psychology department; it represents the broad integration of the three guiding intellectual traditions that found our Ph.D. program —humanistic, transpersonal, and critical,” said Dr. Kareen Malone, professor of psychology and Boynton’s research advisor.
Boynton’s experiences in Jordan revealed the unbound value of his work in restorative justice and revealed its potential beyond Carroll County—in the global community. So a few months later, he returned.
Integrating knowledge gained from his first trip to Amman, Boynton brought a new project to the “Transgenerational Trauma” conference, also hosted by the Common Bonds Institute—an organization dedicated to promoting and advancing humanistic ideals. His second workshop, aimed at participants whose research involves people and communities who experienced trauma, focused on designing interviews to be part of a cathartic and healing process.
“The interview [can] empower and assist in the beginning of the healing of the community. The goal is to demonstrate the skills needed to conduct quality interviews that help the community find its dignity, and create a sustainable system that heals the wounds of trauma,” said Boynton.
At the conclusion of the conference, Boynton chose to make one more trip—to the nearby Syrian refugee camps. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated the Syrian uprising that began in March 2011, has forced nearly 185,000 Syrians to seek refuge in neighboring Jordan.
Moved by the experience of this unplanned excursion, Boynton began work to lead the Department of Psychology’s participation in a project to develop a mental health assessment for refugees living in these camps. The project is slated to begin in late 2012.
“Our hope through the undergraduate and graduate psychology programs is to widen the participation of departments and students who are involved to support all levels of human community,” said Malone.
Human communities in Carroll County; Amman, Jordan; and all points between and around the globe are being touched by graduates from UWG’s psychology program.
Boynton reflected, “I was really just taking a chance as I filled out the proposal application for a conference in Amman, Jordan. But I felt drawn to the event.”
An adventurous spirit, just taking a chance, can lead to a world full of discovery and new possibilities.
“When you experience people as an outsider of the culture, something special happens. The world becomes a new place—it feels open and filled with possibility,” offered Boynton.
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