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Meet Professor Jerry White

Published August 24, 2015 in Faculty

College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Jerry White offered University of Virginia students an early preview of his new course on strategies for mobilizing social-impact networks to combat violence and promote peace during a public lecture on Grounds in April.

Credited with leading high-impact, international peace campaigns resulting in major international treaties, White is joining the College’s faculty as a professor of practice, a University appointment reserved for distinguished professionals who have been recognized nationally or internationally for contributions to their field. Three of the campaigns spearheaded by White resulted in major international treaties: the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Cluster Munitions Treaty, and the Landmine Ban Treaty.  

Working closely with the late Princess Diana, and then King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan to address the humanitarian crisis caused by tens of millions of mines buried in more than 80 countries, he shares in the 1997 Nobel Prize for Peace awarded to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

White also served as a U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Obama administration, launching the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations created by former Secretary Hillary Clinton. During his tenure in the State Department, White co-chaired a working group on religion and conflict mitigation responsible for outreach to diverse civil society leaders and religious actors working to break cycles of violence. Responsible for strategic planning, partnership, and training, White introduced advanced analytics and agent-based modeling to develop data-driven strategies to prevent the spread of violent conflict and to address the rise of ISIS.

“You need focus. You need to pick the sweet spot for impact, and you need to have theories of change that you will be able to measure,” White said in April about the bureau’s work. “It also means that strategy is more art than science. … How can we apply strategy to issues of our day during uncertain, dangerous times? You need partners outside of government who can move faster. Without local partnerships with ownership, you’re not going to have sustainable solutions that last very long.”

His founding of the Landmine Survivors Network—later Survivor Corps—pioneered techniques in war victim assistance and provided tens of thousands of amputees with peer mentors, artificial limbs and job training.  White’s engagement in nonproliferation initiatives and international coalition-building efforts in communities marred by violent conflict date back to a personal trauma that he experienced. While studying abroad in Israel as a 20-year-old undergraduate student, White lost his lower right leg to a landmine explosion while hiking in the Golan Heights. His 2009 book, Getting Up When Life Knocks You Down, chronicles how victims become survivor-leaders.

White’s course is cross-listed in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics and the College’s Global Studies program. He has an MBA from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in Judaic studies from Brown University. White also holds an honorary degree from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

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