By Cathy Knowles
Leila Howze, 20, entered UNC-Greensboro and began her studies in the Fall of 2021. She transferred in as a freshman-sophomore from Charlotte’s Central Piedmont Community College after a dual program for high school students allowed her to start her college studies early.
Initially, Leila was drawn to the Peace and Conflict Studies B.A. program because it was offered online, and she had experience as an online student through homeschooling. But once COVID restrictions started to lift, she began considering an on-campus experience.
During her first year as an on-campus resident at UNCG, her Peace and Conflict Studies classes were online and it was difficult to acclimate to campus life. Leila offers that her first month was challenging as she learned to navigate a social environment and live away from home, as well as figure out how to make friends in an adult context.
Leila enjoys the friends she has made through her dorm, through happenstance on-campus meet cutes, and from her early schooling.
She also finds fulfillment from the social interactions she has through her classes and as a member of the Peace and Conflict Studies department.
Leila has learned to get her classwork done (which she really takes delight in!) so she can enjoy her free time by going to see bands like Greensboro area’s Housewife, getting on a bus and exploring Greensboro, being quiet in her room with her journal and with shows like The Offer or Abbot Elementary, and reading and listening to music outside.
Leila credits her mother, a historical preservation graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, as having a big influence on how Leila sees and interacts with the world. Leila’s mother advocated for her daughter’s education first by deciding to homeschool her due to her dissatisfaction with the public school curriculum, then with the dual study high school-college program, and finally, by encouraging her daughter to attend the rest of college in person.
As a peaceful person who generally is on good terms with others, Leila had an early perception that this was how things worked everywhere. Leila can remember middle school as the first time she started to understand what it meant to be Black and the repercussions of that, especially for other people. She then, due to heightened access to media, started to process what she was seeing with deadly conflict on a national and international scale.
As a personal avoider of conflict, Leila wanted to study how she could learn to re-engage with conflict, especially given the need for healthy approaches to conflict in today’s world.
She was interested in social movements in general, but she didn’t know how to enter them constructively. This amplified her commitment to study peace and eventually led her to UNCG’s Peace and Conflict Studies B.A. program.
Leila sees food as a bed from which peace or conflict can arise. She also has studied beekeeping and wants to return to those studies, since she sees correlations between beekeeping, access to clean water and food, and peace.
Leila is loving the lessons on how to bring about positive peace and finds her studies transformative. As a student who tries to reflect about her learning and make connections, she has been reassured that her studies are interrelated to each other as part of the divine.
Every day, with every class and assignment, she feels that she is learning what she is meant to learn.
Leila sees a beautiful level of kindness in her Peace and Conflict Studies professors and finds this both comforting and surprising. Leila asserts that the type of studies they’ve devoted themselves to has illuminated them and brought forward a light in her teachers that touches her heart.