Johansen honored for scholarship, innovation, mentoring in international peace

Author: Joan Fallon

Robert C. Johansen

Robert C. Johansen, who retired this year as professor of political science and peace studies and a founding faculty member of the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, was honored April 19-21 with a conference and related festivities at the Kroc Institute. The conference, entitled “Global Governance and the Future of Strategic Peacebuilding,” focused on a central theme of Johansen’s scholarship and teaching: the importance of strengthening ethical and legal norms and international institutions that contribute to peace and justice.

Conference participants included prominent scholars of global affairs — including keynote speakers G. John Ikenberry of Princeton University, Craig Murphy of the University of Massachusetts, and Richard Falk of the University of California — as well as Johansen’s colleagues at Notre Dame, students in peace studies, members of the Kroc Institute Advisory Council, and Kroc Institute alumni who said their lives had been transformed by Johansen’s teaching and mentoring.

Johansen is best known for his scholarly work on analyzing foreign policy from a global perspective and describing international relations as a global system, said Scott Appleby, director of the Kroc Institute.

“The central idea that informs everything Bob has written and teaches is that we have to find ways to move beyond boundaries, beyond exclusive expressions of our identities — whether they be religious, racial, or national. What binds us together is our common humanity. How do we embed that conviction in international legal norms and institutions, in order to ensure that each person’s dignity is protected?”

At Notre Dame, where he has taught for 25 years, Johansen was central to shaping the Kroc Institute from its inception in 1986 to its position today as a leading center for peace research and education. He developed the institute’s innovative professional master’s program in international peace studies, which he directed from 1987-98. He also taught and mentored generations of peace scholars and practitioners (many of the program’s nearly 500 graduates), who now work in nearly 100 countries.

Johansen spearheaded the design and development of the Kroc Institute’s unique Ph.D. program (in which students are fully credentialed in history, political science, psychology, sociology, and theology, as well as in peace studies) and served as director of doctoral studies from 2008-10.

“Bob Johansen is the reason I came to Notre Dame,” said Laura Taylor, one of the first doctoral students in peace studies. “I think the Ph.D. program has the potential to change the face of peace studies by being interdisciplinary. That vision makes it different from any other program and allows us to all be strong in our home discipline and in peace research.”

“Your ideas are changing the field of peace,” wrote Noah Salameh, a 1994 alumnus from Palestine, one of many dozens of former students who thanked Johansen for his intellectual and personal commitments. “Your thoughts, books and teaching are in practice every day.”

“You’re a giant among my elders because of your wisdom, joy and commitment to making the world a better place,” wrote Michelle Parlevliet, a 1995 graduate from Amsterdam.

Robert Johansen with students

Johansen has served as program chair for the International Studies Association, past president of the World Policy Institute, and founding editor-in-chief of the World Policy Journal. He has held visiting appointments at Princeton University’s Center for International Studies, Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs, and the Center for the Study of World Religions. In 2009 he received the Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Peace Studies award from the Peace and Justice Association.

Johansen’s major publications include “The National Interest and the Human Interest: An Analysis of U.S. Foreign Policy” (Princeton, 1980) and “Toward an Alternative Security System: Moving Beyond the Balance of Power in the Search for World Security” (World Policy Institute, 1983), and he co-edited “The Constitutional Foundations of World Peace” (SUNY, 1993). His scholarly articles have appeared in World Policy Journal, World Politics, The Journal of Peace Research, Global Governance, Human Rights Quarterly, Third World Quarterly, Mershon International Studies Review, and Review of Politics.

The Kroc Institute has excelled not only because of its commitment to interdisciplinary research and teaching on peace and justice, Johansen said, but also “because faculty and students are animated by a spirit of compassion that has quietly woven its way into our lives together. One test of this program has become whether — because we faculty and students have worked together — someone’s suffering will be reduced, some person’s life will be spared, or some child who might have suffered genocide or war instead will live to productive adulthood.”

In retirement, Johansen plans to continue his research, writing, public speaking, and advocacy for peace.

Watch tribute video to Professor Johansen

Contact: Robert Johansen, 574-631-6971,