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June 18, 2020

Putting Peace to Practice


Guilford’s Peace and Conflict Studies major examines the nature of conflict and violence, possibilities of social change, and means for nonviolent resolution. It was a perfect fit for Kentaro Nakajima ’20, an international student from Tokyo, Japan, who was looking to explore his burning desire to create peaceful spaces around his community and the world.

Going into college, Kentaro aspired to study nuclear issues, specifically to learn how to bridge the gap between nuclear powers and non-nuclear powers and to learn about the processes that lead to the systemic exposure of violence in certain communities. Guilford provided him not only the ability to study these topics in the classroom but to gain hands-on experience solving the issues he cares about most.

In class with Professor Emeritus of Peace and Conflict Studies Vernie Davis, Kentaro had the opportunity to interview activists who were a part of anti-nuclear movements in the 1980s. “It was a really precious experience for me, and I learned how to change a society through activism,” Kentaro says. 

He also learned a lot from his courses with Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies Zulfiya Tursunova. She provided a number of experiential learning opportunities, including one project where Kentaro conducted a survey with classmates about whether or not the FaithAction ID card for people who do not have a government issued ID is actually useful.

“These classes help me gain a better understanding of issues in a society and how to change them,” Kentaro says. “The hands-on research made it possible for me to make connections between concepts I learned in classes and the actual situations.”

Finding His Place

Academics weren’t the only thing that drew Kentaro to Guilford. The College’s tight-knit community created an environment that made it easy for him, as an international student, to get used to college life — an important factor for Kentaro when choosing the college he would attend.

Outside of the classroom, he was an active member of the College’s community and continued his work toward a more peaceful and accepting world as the International Club’s Secretary. “International Club is significant in learning to transcend biases toward different cultures and people from different countries,” he says. The club was like a second home for Kentaro, allowing him to develop deep relationships with its members and the other officers. 

Kentaro also received multiple scholarships, including the Hazel Steinfeldt Scholarship for demonstrating a commitment to a vocation of peacemaking and the Guilford College Eugene Thompson Scholarship for his strong ability to connect with others and understand the importance of being a great writer and speaker when setting out to be a world-changer. As an international student, these scholarships meant a lot to Kentaro, reducing the financial burden and making his studies at Guilford College possible.

Looking to the Future

“I developed both personally and mentally through my experiences at Guilford,” Kentaro says. “In retrospect, I feel like the decision to study abroad at Guilford was the right choice.” After graduation, Kentaro plans to pursue a career in the peace and conflict field, putting to use the knowledge he learned at Guilford and hopes to apply for graduate school in the future.

“I would like to express my gratitude towards my parents and my late grandfather who gave me an opportunity to study abroad at Guilford and have always supported me in many aspects, Kentaro says. “I am also very grateful to my professors and friends who helped me through difficulties and made my college life meaningful. Without supportive friends and professors at Guilford and my family, I would not have achieved my graduation.”

Are you interested in making a difference in the world as an activist for change? Are you an international student looking for a tight-knit and comfortable college home? Schedule your personalized visit or chat today to learn more about Guilford’s Peace and Conflict Studies Department.