Kennesaw State students work hands-on to augment State Department peacekeeping operations

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jun 8, 2021

Charity Butcher
Charity Butcher

Gauging the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations is no simple task, but with the help of Kennesaw State faculty and students, the U.S. State Department can make more informed decisions for future peacekeeping action.

This spring, Ph.D. students joined political science professor Charity Butcher in conducting research to help the U.S. Department of State evaluate its peacekeeping operations. Students worked with the Bureau of Peace Operations, and were tasked with providing a review of existing studies on effective peacekeeping and developing an evaluation tool the State Department could use to assess the ability of peacekeeping missions to achieve results on the ground.

Butcher, who teaches a course on peacekeeping, peacebuilding and reconciliation in Kennesaw State’s School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development, said the project provided her students with an applicable experience that would be useful for their future professional endeavors.

“The overall project the students proposed was perfectly aligned with what we do in the class,” Butcher said. “It seemed like a great opportunity to have our Ph.D. students work on something that directly translates to activities our government agencies conduct.”

The project divided students into two groups focused on researching literature regarding peacekeeping effectiveness and developing the evaluation tool, which would be used to analyze global peacekeeping efforts. Using a more systematic and quantitative approach than previous evaluation methods, the tool reimagines the way peacekeeping efforts are evaluated by the State Department. Students ultimately created the KSU Mission Effectiveness Evaluation Tool (MEET), which created two surveys, one that was geared toward mission personnel on the ground and another that was geared toward the general public. Both surveys could be accessed via a mobile device by those involved in peacekeeping operations.

“Officials were very impressed with our students and were excited about the possibility of using it in the future,” Butcher said. “I think they recognize how the tool would  make their jobs easier and allow them to measure and compare different operations over time.”

The project was awarded to KSU by the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomacy Lab, a program that harnesses the scholarly efforts of college students and faculty to solve complex global challenges. KSU is one of 35 universities involved in the Diplomacy Lab public-private partnership that enables the State Department to “course-source” research and innovation related to foreign policy challenges. Partner universities, including Ivy League institutions such as Yale University and Columbia University, conduct research on the State Department’s most critical matters, including climate change, democracy and human rights, counterterrorism, global health, energy security, gender equality, economic policy trafficking of individuals, food security, and conflict and stabilization. KSU’s Diplomacy Lab projects are housed in the newly formed School of Data Science and Analytics.

“Participating in the Diplomacy Lab really gave us a practical, real-world view of how research and innovation could impact peacekeeping and peacebuilding beyond academia,” said Anne Chance, a Ph.D. student studying international conflict management. “It was gratifying that the State Department really appreciated our work, and being able to participate in the project gave so much clarity to the practical applications of this research.”

– Josh Milton

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