The theory and skills I acquired at the McKay Center have grounded my approach to life academically, professionally, and personally.
— -Zach Tilton
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We have been really working with the Alumni of the Peacebuilding program to channel their experiences toward current and prospective students. This is to help showcase the wide variety of  ventures that many coming out of the Peacebuilding major have been able to accomplish! Read on about Peacebuilding Alumni, Zach Tilton! He has amazing insight to share.

Where are you from? How old are you? How long ago did you graduate? 

"My name is Zach Tilton and I am from Palm Bay, Florida. I am 30 years old and graduated from BYU-Hawaii in 2012 with an interdisciplinary degree in Peacebuilding and Business Management." 

What brought you to both BYU-Hawaii and Peacebuilding? How have both of these impacted your present day life? 

"After a profound conversion experience, I found great purpose and fulfillment serving as a missionary where I helped my brothers and sisters find reconciliation with the Divine. When I returned from the mission field I knew I wanted to pursue a degree and profession imbued with a similar purpose as I found on my mission. After struggling to find that purpose in my studies at BYU-Idaho, my wife, then girlfriend, transferred to BYU-Hawaii and told me of these incredible classes about peacebuilding. After flying out to Laie to see for myself and sit in on IPB courses I applied and was accepted to study at the McKay Center at BYU-Hawaii where I continued to learn how to help others to be reconciled to the Divine by first being reconciled to each other."

What is one thing that you feel is one thing you wish you would have known about the application of peacebuilding before you graduated? 

"The term peacebuilding suggests peace is something like a bridge that can fall in and out of disrepair necessitating peacebuilding experts like engineers who parachute into fragile and conflict affected contexts and 'rebuild' the peace. I have found peace to be more complex and that wherever there is violence, there are local, informed actors networked and actively working toward peace formation in everyday terms and that the best thing 'peacebuilders' can do is try and understand, appreciate, stimulate, facilitate, and safeguard these processes that are already ongoing. Too much 'peacebuilding' from external actors can inadvertently foster dependency and often undermine these local systems for peace."

What is your current occupation? 

"Since graduating I have worked with the United States Peace Corps in Morocco, Search for Common Ground in Washington, DC, International Alert in London, and Everyday Peace Indicators in Manchester. I was awarded a Rotary Peace Fellowship where I graduated with an MA in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford. Currently, I am at the UN Foundation with the Digital Impact Alliance as a Monitoring and Evaluation Fellow where I work with a team to generate evidence about creating more inclusive digital ecosystems for social impact."

In what ways do you use the tools you learned in Peacebuilding in both your occupation and everyday life? 

"The theory and skills I acquired at the McKay Center have grounded my approach to life academically, professionally, and personally. With the foundational emphasis on 'way of being' and 'mindset' the McKay Center prepared myself for the critical approach of reflective peacebuilding practice, the continual checking of my assumptions, my theories of change, and my environments both internal and external that I am working in. This examined peacebuilding praxis has proven invaluable for navigating challenging situations professionally and personally."

Lastly, Is anything that you want to share with current or perspective students? 

"Cherish your time and wholeheartedly apply yourself to the study of peace at the McKay Center. Having been fortunate to be associated with some of the most prominent peacebuilding organizations, institutions, and individuals since leaving BYU-Hawaii, I can confidently affirm that the McKay Center is one of the best Peace and Conflict studies programs in the world."


Words by Zach Tilton

Written by Bailee Rasmussen