James Skelly Named Interim Director of Baker Institute at Juniata College

James Skelly
Photo courtesy of Juniata College
James Skelly

James Skelly, a longtime senior fellow at Juniata College’s Baker Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, has been named interim director of the institute for a two-year period, effective immediately. Juniata College is a Church of the Brethren-related school in Huntingdon, Pa.

Skelly takes over from Richard Mahoney, who directed the Baker Institute from 2008 to 2012. Mahoney left Juniata to become director of the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina State University in Winston-Salem.

Skelly has been associated with Juniata’s peace studies program for more than a decade. Over the years, he has at different times spent a year or a semester in residency at the college to teach courses or returned to speak on various peace-related issues.

“Peace institutes like the Baker Institute, and peace studies more broadly, are not sentimentalized, utopian projects, although they are sometimes said to be so, especially by those who consider themselves ‘realists,’” Skelly says. “Instead, it’s our task at the Baker Institute and Juniata College to insure that we develop a realism that not only takes account of the world we’re living in now, but more importantly, the world we want to live in and can create with commitment and intelligence.”

Described as “the Peace Studies architect” by genocide scholar Robert Jay Lifton in Lifton’s memoir “Witness to an Extreme Century,” Skelly also is a member of the faculty at the Institute for Social and European Studies in Koszeg, Hungary, and a TAMOP Research Fellow at Pazmany Peter Katholik University in Hungary.

His activism for peace and commitment to peace studies reaches back to the 1970s, when, as a US military officer, he filed a lawsuit against then-Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird because he refused to serve in Vietnam. The case helped redefine the criteria for conscientious objectors.

Since completing his doctorate at the University of California, San Diego, he has taught and lectured at institutions in Europe, the US, China, Japan, and Russia. He has published articles on war and peace issues, as well as study abroad and global citizenship in such professional journals as “International Educator,” “Disarmament Forum,” “Peace Review,” and “The Handbook of Practice and Research in Study Abroad: Higher Education and the Quest for Global Citizenship.”

In 1984 he joined the faculty at U.C. San Diego as associate director of the university’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, where he worked with Ambassador Herbert York, a nationally known nuclear arms control advocate, and helped create a graduate fellowship program and a peace study abroad program with Mejii Gakuin University in Japan. He was a founder of the Peace Studies Association in 1987 and chair of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Peace and War 1987-88. From 1989-90, he worked as associate director of New York University’s Center for War, Peace, and the News Media, and subsequently became associate director of the Irish Peace Institute at the University of Limerick. In 1995, he co-founded the European Peace University-Spain, now part of Universitat Jaume I in Castellon de la Plana.

— John Wall is director of media relations for Juniata College.