The Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College will be welcoming a new endowed director, effective July 1 of this year. Dr. Peter McBride will be joining the Cohen Center as the new director this summer and will be bringing new goals and ideas for the center with him.
According to Dean of Mason Library Celia Rabinowitz, McBride’s background should serve him well in his role with the Cohen Center.
“He has spent most of his time in the last 15 years or so working with an organization in Ireland that provides mental health services, particularly for people in what we describe as a post-conflict society,” Rabinowitz said. “All of Ireland was pretty traumatized, particularly Northern Ireland, so a lot of his academic background was in training about what are post-conflict society mental health issues. He’s provided the same kinds of services in Rwanda and South Sudan.”
Currently, McBride chairs two government committees: one on openness and candor in the health service and the other on historical clerical abuse. He also works directly with a number of senior executives and organizations providing coaching and mentoring.
“My own specialism is in post-conflict mental health, and I have worked my whole career helping communities understand the impact trauma has on how they construct a view of reality and how that changes the way they see the ‘ other.’ I hope this additional expertise will add something to the work of the HGS department,” McBride said.
According to KSC President Melinda Treadwell, a major goal for the future of the Cohen Center is to be more recognizable at a number of levels.
“We set a very ambitious vision for becoming an international leader in the study of genocide prevention and really becoming a global presence with regard to our undergraduate and hopefully graduate program offerings,” Treadwell said.
McBride is already looking to this vision when it comes to his plans for the center.
“At a local level, the building itself will be busy, buzzing with a whole variety of different activities, where students and staff experience it as a helpful resource, helping them navigate some of the difficult challenges we face as a society,” McBride said. “At a national level, the Cohen Center will be visible, alongside other organizations, challenging the development of destructive and harmful policies and advocating for a humane reconciling future. At an international level, the Cohen Center will be involved in those areas of the world where genocide is happening, or is likely to happen, working to ensure that victims and survivors get the best support that is possible, and working to prevent further atrocities.”
Specifically, McBride’s position will entail multiple responsibilities pertaining back to this goal.
“Some of the position is setting up the programming, the lectures that happen every year and some of the other activities that go on and thinking about some new ways we can do those activities,” Rabinowitz said. “He’ll be working with our advisory council, which is made up of faculty, staff, students and community members as people who help us connect out into the community, as well as with students in the HGS program and just with campus in general and fundraising on behalf of the center to expand the work the center’s doing.”
McBride is planning on letting the needs of the college, the center and the community inform decisions concerning the center.
“I am really excited about taking on this role and my plans start with a period of listening and learning about the needs and ambitions of the local community, the college faculty and students,” McBride said. “The Cohen Center is so perfectly placed right at the heart of the college, and I want to explore with everyone who is connected and interested how we might develop the role of the center over the coming months and years.”
Rabinowitz said that she is excited for the transition and to see new opportunities for the center moving forward. McBride is also looking forward to furthering the vision for the center.
“While I have lots of ideas and plans myself, the power of the Cohen Center will be its ability to draw together and convene groups of people who are passionate about challenging division, stigma, hatred, anti-Semitism and who want to work together to create mechanisms to promote peace and reconciliation,” McBride said. “I think of the Cohen Center as a haven where anyone can explore for themselves different and challenging ways of thinking and being.”
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at