PHILADELPHIA The Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at the University of Pennsylvania has a new home.
On July 30 Penn President Judith Rodin will join Asch Center directors and affiliated faculty, academics from area colleges and universities, city officials and other invited guests for the official opening of the new home in Suite 305 at St. Leonard's Court, 39th and Chestnut streets in Philadelphia.
The Center, which began unceremoniously three years ago with just a handful of affiliated faculty, is the brainchild of two men: Martin Seligman, a Penn psychology professor and former American Psychological Association president, and former Canadian Psychological Association President Peter Suedfeld. In 1998, they called for new initiatives to better understand ethnopolitical conflict. In response to this call, the Center was created with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The Asch Center was formerly housed in a single office in the Psychology Department, a few blocks away from its new location. Since then the Asch Center has grown dramatically. Today the Center includes dozens of scholars from Penn, Bryn Mawr College, Swarthmore College and Drexel University. Their expertise spans 10 different disciplines: psychology, political science, sociology, anthropology, history, public policy, communication, education, management and medicine.
The Asch Center works to advance research and training in the areas of ethnic-group conflict and violence around the world. This includes the study of group identification, group isolation and integration, the dynamics of escalation, conflict resolution, bystander behavior, the psychology of ethnopolitical killers, psychosocial service development and program evaluation and the design of psychologically sustainable political communities. Members of the Center conduct their research at Penn and at international network sites in Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, South Africa and Sri Lanka.
A highlight of the Asch Center's current training programming is its Summer Institute. The Institute offers an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to prepare psychologists and other professionals and academics to work on issues of ethnopolitical conflict at their home institutions, at the Asch Center, and at international network sites. With support provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, the Center's inaugural Summer Institute was held in the summer of 1999. The 2001 Summer Institute has 16 Fellows from diverse backgrounds and from almost a dozen different countries participating in an intensive ten-week session of interdisciplinary lectures, discussions, and working groups. Several of these Fellows will continue on to postdoctoral work sponsored by the Asch Center at selected sites overseas.
The Center is named after the late Solomon E. Asch. He came to Penn in 1972 as a full professor and was an emeritus professor from 1979 until his death in 1996 at the age of 88. Asch was one of the pioneers in social psychology. Paul Rozin, co-director of the Asch Center, described Asch as "arguably, the most distinguished social psychologist in history."