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March 8, 2022

Genuine Faith


Raw curiosity inspired Jacob Perkins ’22 to major in Religious Studies.

“The Honors Program developed me as a scholar in a couple of key ways. First, it rekindled a passion for learning and natural curiosity that may have been dulled by years of ‘learning’ through rote memorization. Second, it has given me the confidence I need to strive for excellence in academics and set my sights on graduate school.”

Jacob Perkins
Double major in Accounting and Religious Studies

“I wanted to learn about the world around me and the systems which govern people across all sorts of boundaries,” he explains. “I recognized religion to be one of the great power structures of the world. As I got deeper into my studies, I became more attentive to certain elements, such as how religion can be used not only as a force of coercion and oppression, as it so often has throughout history, but that religion can also be a truly liberating and world-changing force for good.” Later, Jacob added an Accounting major

Having grown up in nearby Burlington, N.C., Jacob determined that Guilford was the best place for him.

“Guilford was far enough away from home that I was able to learn how to function on my own. And it was close enough to home that family was nearby when necessary,” he says. “From the very first visit I felt comfortable and like I belonged at Guilford. In short, Guilford felt like, and has become, home.”

Three Weeks on the Edge: Fantastic Journeys [VIDEO]

Three Weeks on the Edge: Fantastic Journeys [VIDEO]

The Guilford Edge provides incredible opportunities for hands-on, collaborative learning. "Fantastic Journeys," led by English Professor and Honors Program…

Opportunity Abounds

An integral part of Jacob’s undergraduate experience has been the Honors Program, a group of high-performing students. “It provides not only a support structure which pulls each other up when needed, but it also provides a firm foundation for healthy, mutually beneficial friendships,” he says.

He notes his participation in the inaugural Fantastic Journeys class taught by Robert K. Marshall Professor of English Professor and Honors Program Director Heather Hayton. It included a study abroad trip to Spain and Portugal where they walked on El Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage trail named for St. James the Great.

“This gave me great confidence as a person about my ability to travel and to exist in uncomfortable spaces,” he says. “It has also led me to believe that human growth occurs most often when people are uncomfortable. Experiencing this type of adventure with a group such as ours led to extraordinary growth as a community.”

Later, Jacob had the honor of being a teaching assistant for a Fantastic Journeys class taught by Religious Studies Professor Jill Peterfeso. 

“The Honors Program developed me as a scholar in a couple of key ways. First, it rekindled a passion for learning and natural curiosity that may have been dulled by years of ‘learning’ through rote memorization,” he says. “Second, it has given me the confidence I need to strive for excellence in academics and set my sights on graduate school.”

Jacob plans to pursue Religious Studies in graduate school in order to “share the liberating power of faith to work toward repairing the world around us.” He has considered teaching, preaching from the pulpit, or ministering to those outside the walls of institutions.

He also already has his job lined up for next summer. “I’ll be the Program Director at Cherokee Scout Reservation in Yanceyville, N.C. It’s a summer camp owned and operated by the Old North State Council for Scouts BSA and Cub Scouts. I’ll help create a positive, welcoming, and inclusive camp-wide culture and ensure that program staff are equipped with the necessary attributes, instructional strategies, and equipment to provide all campers a dynamic and fun week-long summer camp experience.” 

Guilford Foundation

Professors are an important element of Jacob’s success. 

Heather is a key mentor, professor, adviser, and friend to Jacob. “She has had perhaps the greatest impact on my ability to perform as a scholar, my ability to read and think critically about a text,” he says.

And he notes Jill’s influence. “Jill’s greatest impact on me has been my ability to seek out and identify the significance or ‘so what’ of a research project. It is not enough to simply do research and share my findings. The real magic happens when I explain why those findings matter or should matter to greater society.”

Jacob continues, “I must also credit Mark Justad and Hadia Mubarak with providing a basic understanding of what Religious Studies as a field is, something Jill later built upon through the Religious Studies Colloquium program, and for ‘hooking’ me on Religious Studies.”

The Road Ahead

Wise beyond his years, Jacob has solid advice for Guilford students: Build intentional relationships, be open to finding friends where you may not expect to, and spend time getting to know faculty and staff. “And find joy in learning,” he advises. “If you can’t find it, you may be in the wrong major.” 

Among the highs and lows of his time at Guilford, Jacob always had the warm, embracing community for which the College is so well known. He explains, “The makeup of this community changes, the individual people change, but the heart of Guilford — Guilford’s inner light — is a constant.”

Are you interested in becoming a Religious Studies major at Guilford College? Schedule your personalized visit to campus to learn more about the College's Quaker background and foundation and to meet students like Jacob who share your interests.