Honoring Cynthia Cohen

On the Occasion of Her Retirement

Cindy Cohen Cynthia Cohen joined the Ethics Center in 1997. As director and later co-director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts, she has led action/reflection research projects and writes and teaches about work at the nexus of the arts, culture, justice and peace. She directed the Brandeis University/Theatre Without Borders collaboration Acting Together, co-edited the "Acting Together on the World Stage" anthology and co-created the related documentary and toolkit.

Explore Cynthia Cohen's work on her Scholarworks page.

To share your own tribute to Cynthia Cohen, email ethics@brandeis.edu.

A panel discussion

Cindy Cohen moderating a panel discussion in 2012 on "The Art of Dialogue" featuring Farhat Agbaria, a coexistence facilitator based at Givat Haviva in Israel and Seeds of Peace, and Brandeis undergraduates and Heller School Masters in Coexistence and Conflict students.

Shared Tributes for Cynthia Cohen

John Shattuck

Chair of the Ethics Center’s International Advisory Board

"Cindy's inspiring work connecting the arts with peacebuilding is based on her vision that conflict can be transformed when divided communities are given voice through the arts to express their pain, their common humanity and their hopes for peace. Her far-reaching programs have created countless opportunities for culture and the arts to transform conflict, and have brought Brandeis students and faculty into the world of peacebuilding."

Melissa Stimell

Director of the Ethics Center

"Cynthia Cohen introduced Brandeis University, the world and me to the field of Peacebuilding and the Arts. Her creative projects and publications continue to influence practitioners and scholars across the globe on how the arts can be used to solve complex problems. Her work on 'Acting Together' and, most recently, climate justice, are examples of her view of the power of art. I am grateful to Cindy for sharing her expertise in this field with me, the students in my course on global justice, and the expanding community of Peacebuilding and the Arts."

Dan Terris

Founding Director and Director Emeritus of the Center

"Cindy Cohen joined the Ethics Center when it was in its infancy. Almost single-handedly, she constructed the framework and the vision for the Center's programs in the area we then called 'coexistence.' Her achievements included playing a primary role in the creation of the MA Program in Coexistence and Conflict (now situated at the Heller School), a central role in guiding many of the undergraduate students who served as fellows of the Center, and, of course, the leadership of what eventually became the Ethics Center's programs in Peacebuilding and the Arts (PBA).

"In PBA, Cindy built a network that made the Ethics Center and Brandeis University the global leader in the field. She has a deft touch for bringing together people of different backgrounds, disciplines and talents, and molding the whole into something much greater than the sum of its parts. Performers and activists alike thrived in the PBA network, joining together to create innovative productions, publications and movements that had a dramatic impact on the lives of grassroots communities in many corners of the globe. This didn't happen by accident. Cindy's insights and manner, simultaneously intellectually demanding and gently supportive, created an environment where participants were moved to think and act together and become their best and most engaged selves.

"Her friendship is one of the great sources of inspiration and of care in my life."

Leigh Swigart

Director of Programs in International Justice and Society

"I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with Cindy for over 20 years. Over that time, she has done foundational work — both theoretical and practical — on defining the field of peacebuilding and the arts, and then on identifying and building up a community of practitioners whose work aligns with the field's principles. I have stood in awe of her commitment to this endeavor, one that has made a real difference around the globe. On a personal note, collaborating with Cindy on various activities has been a highlight of my own time at the Ethics Center. She has been unfailingly supportive but also a stickler for high standards on whatever we have planned and executed together. At the same time, her warm presence enhanced the atmosphere of the Center, which helped provide both a collegial and safe place to hatch new ideas."

Toni Shapiro-Phim

Co-Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts

"It was Cindy's groundbreaking publications, film and vision for our interdependent world — and for education about it — that brought me to Brandeis. I am grateful for the space we've carved out collaboratively (with others on almost every continent) to gain and impart insights about both time-tested and innovative approaches to moving the needle from violence to peace, from oppression to justice, and from suffering to safety, dignity, and beauty, and to directly support those engaged in such struggles.

"In so many places I visit, Cindy is mentioned with reverence: artists, policy makers, community organizers, students and scholars admire Cindy and seek to work with and learn from her. And here I've been, getting to do both, every day. What a gift Cindy has been to me, Brandeis and all those who are creatively, brilliantly, paving ways to counter injustice and violence of all sorts."

Richard Goldstone

H’04, former Chair of the Center’s Advisory Board, former justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and leader in the development of international justice

"As former chair of the International Advisory Board of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, it was my great pleasure and privilege to work with and to come to know Cindy. I was able to witness how her passion for the role of arts in peacebuilding made her one of the leading international experts in that field. She inspired all with whom she came into contact and especially her students."

David Weinstein

Assistant Director of ENACT and Communications

"Whether she has realized it or not, Cindy has been a mentor to me. I'm inspired by her ethical commitment to engaging with some of the most challenging societal issues with humility, care and reciprocity. Everyone Cindy collaborates with at Brandeis and beyond feels her sincere respect for their humanity and individuality. Brandeis and communities around the globe have benefited from her relentless pursuit of peace and reconciliation. I have benefited from her example, her support, and her friendship."

Armine Avetisyan

IMPACT Program Coordinator and Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts Administrator

A Haiku for Cindy

kind soul, creative

mind — peacebuilding and the arts,

touching people's lives

Marci McPhee

Former Associate Director of the Ethics Center

"I don't know what I can add to the glowing remarks already online, except AMEN!! I will share this.

"You'd think that Cindy's worldwide prominence in the field of Peacebuilding and the Arts would make her stuffy and unapproachable. She was just the opposite. She could come back from a trip hobnobbing with world experts in exotic locations and have the time for a story or advice for anyone of whatever status – colleague, student, building staff, whatever. Her creativity in designing and implementing visionary, unique programs is remarkable. 

"I very much appreciated Cindy's openness and generosity with her time and deep wisdom, to help think through challenges and look for solutions. Cindy was generous in sharing her own personal journey as well (will I ever forget the story of her grandmother? 'A kaleidoscope of feelings in every stitch' – if my memory serves).

"Cindy is a one-of-a-kind person who continues to live into her tremendous potential to change the world, a person at a time. She is a rare and wonderful person, much beloved by all who have been lucky enough to cross paths with her."

Wendi Adelson '01

Brandeis University Class of 2001; 1999 Ethics Center Sorensen Fellow

"I just learned that Cindy Cohen is retiring which feels impossible. I cannot imagine Brandeis or the Ethics Center without her: the two so inextricably intertwined in my imagination that I cannot separate them.

"I graduated from Brandeis in 2001, a devotee of Cindy's and the Ethics Center both. Cindy was the first person I cried in front of, the first individual to recognize in me a strong sense of justice and to help me explore and cultivate it, and someone who helped me take myself seriously as a person and a thinker.  

"Cindy Cohen has a kindness and empathy only matched by her inquisitive and strong mind. I hope that retirement feels good, that she is properly celebrated, and that she knows how much she is loved and will be missed."