Virginia Tech building where gunman opened fire now home to peace center

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) The building where the gunman opened fire on April 16, 2007, is now home to the Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. That place of so much heartache is now encouraging a safer world.

Justin Ward/WDBJ7

"We try to promote a just and peaceful society," Director of Peace Studies and Violence Prevention James Hawdon said.

On the second floor of Norris Hall, there's a calm, stress-free promoted environment. Hawdon is proud of that.

"We can hopefully make the world a better place for everyone and a more inclusive world," Hawdon said.

It's a department that promotes good things, in a building that is part of Virginia Tech's darkest day. Hawdon's not letting the violence that happened here define this university. It's part of his job to help stop a negative perception from taking over campus.

"I don't believe we'll ever, we or anyone else, will ever rid the world of violence ... I'm proud of what we've accomplished here but we have a very, very long way to go," Hawdon said.

The space has changed since 2007. Instead of the classrooms, office space, artwork and a study room named for shooting victim Liviu Librescu now fill the hall.

"That was the idea, to transform the space into something more positive after such horrific acts of violence occurred here," Hawdon said.

The center is hosting an open house Sunday to highlight the work the department has done over the past 10 years.

Additonally, almost 120 students are currently working to get their minor through the department. Students learn conflict management, reasoning and communication skills. Hawdon calls the second floor of Norris Hall a sacred space, and plans to reframe the minor to reach more students.