“The means may be likened to a seed, the end to a tree; and there is just the same inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree.” — M. K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, Ch. 16

St. Bonaventure University

The Nonviolence Program

Gandhi at his spinning wheel
  • Why does nonviolence require more courage than violence?
  • How, when you are losing your cool, can you maintain control and self-discipline?
  • How was Gandhi able to predict the nonviolent civil rights movement in the U.S. before Martin Luther King Jr. was 10 years old?
  • Why do nations persist in using violence as policy despite thousands of years of evidence that nonviolence works more effectively?
  • What did Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. really stand for?
  • Why is Jesus one of the most radical people in the history of the world?
  • Who were Leo Tolstoy, Adin Ballou, Ammon Henacy, and Badshah Khan? What beliefs did they all share?

These questions, and many others, represent the core of the program in nonviolence at St. Bonaventure University, one of the longest-standing peace studies programs in the world.

The program offers more courses in nonviolence than any other program in the United States, and is unique among the 350 other peace studies programs in the country because of its emphasis on nonviolence as a way of life and not just a strategy for gaining success.

Program information

Students may participate in the Nonviolence Program in several ways:

  • by taking individual course offerings through the Program;
  • by participating as volunteers in any activities sponsored by the program;
  • by pursuing a minor in nonviolence (see below) through the program's course offerings;
  • or by designing an interdepartmental major with a focus on nonviolence (see below), utilizing the courses offered through the Program.

Majoring in nonviolence

Students wishing to design their own interdepartmental major that focuses on nonviolence should consult with the director of the program.

Nonviolence minor

Students may pursue a minor in nonviolence through an already-approved course of study.

Requirements for the nonviolence minor

Program history

The Nonviolence Program was originally established in the early 1980s by Sr. Kathie Uhler, a philosophy professor, as the Peace Studies Program. During the program’s first two years, Sr. Kathie built an impressive collection of books related to the field before turning the program over to Dr. Mary Hamilton, a journalism professor.

Dr. Barry L. Gan of the Department of Philosophy became director of the program in 1986 and shortly thereafter it was renamed the Justice, Peace and Conflict Studies Program. But in the late 1990s, recognizing that the program was concerned not only with the goal of peace but with nonviolent means for achieving that goal, the program became the Nonviolence Program.

In the years since the program’s founding, it has grown from classes of five or 10 students a semester to upwards of 70 students in some semesters. It is recognized as one of the oldest such programs in the United States. Following Gan’s retirement in 2020, after 34 years of directing the program, Dr. Robin Valeri of the Psychology Department became director.

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