Kevin Kester

“Thanks to UPS, I could travel the world and graduate debt-free.”

Kester is an accomplished founding faculty member of the Endicott College of International Studies in Daejeon, South Korea, and an international consultant to United Nations agencies. Kester has always had an interest in global affairs and international travel; he has traveled to over 40 countries and every continent. “Thanks to UPS, I could see the world,” said Kester.  

Kevin Kester grew up economically deprived in London, Kentucky, a small rural town with a population of 8,157 at the time of the 2016 U.S. census, and consequently began with Metropolitan College program in the summer of 1999 (early in the program’s inception) to access tuition-free post-secondary education. Kester worked third-shift at UPS for approximately four years while maintaining a full-time course load at the University of Louisville.

Through the Metropolitan College program, Kester earned his bachelor's degree in music theory and composition from the University of Louisville in May 2004. After graduating in 2004, Kester went on to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities, Columbia University in New York, New York, where he received a postgraduate certificate in Education and Peace Studies (2006). Kester’s other notable scholastic achievements include: Master of Arts in Peace & Conflict Studies (2007) from the United Nations University in San Jose, Costa Rica; Master of Arts in Education and International Development (2010) from University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada; and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education, Conflict and Peacebuilding (2017) from the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England.

Kester continues to recommend the Metropolitan College program to others struggling to find a way to pay for college.

Kester teaching social theory at Endicott College of Intl. Studies
Photo: Kester teaching social theory to his International Studies students at Endicott College of International Studies in Daejeon, Korea in 2017

Alumni Spotlight Q&A 

Q: Where are you currently working, and what is your role within the organization?

I am Assistant Professor of International & Area Studies at Endicott College of International Studies in Daejeon, Korea.  I lead research and teaching into international studies through the application of social theory and practical knowledge to address contemporary global issues, with a particular focus on the Korean peninsula. [*The position is Tenure-Track Equivalent. Serving as Acting Chair/Head of the Department of International Studies.]

Previously, I was a postdoc researching conflict and peace in schools and universities in Europe and the UK at the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge. Currently, at Endicott College, I teach undergraduate courses on sociology and international politics and supervise [thesis papers for bachelor degree-seeking students]. I also direct the university's International Faculty Research Center, and I am the Chair of the Department of International Studies. 

In the past, I have worked as an Instructor with Civic Education Programs at Northwestern, UC Berkeley, and Johns Hopkins universities. Since 2007, and prior to my PhD, I was Assistant Professor of International Relations and Peace Studies at Hannam University in Daejeon, Korea and Visiting Assistant Professor of International Affairs and Development Education at the United Nations Peace University Asia-Pacific Centre in Seoul.

I am an ongoing consultant on issues of international peace and education with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Q: What professional skills are needed to be successful in the workplace?

Open-mindedness, knowledge of current affairs, critical reflection, great communication and writing skills, and empathy. 

Q: What is the best career advice you ever received? 

Do not put off until tomorrow what you can achieve today.

Q: In what way has the Metropolitan College program helped you to succeed professionally? 

It solidified my perseverance. Working third-shift for four years of university, on top of studying full-time (and attending 8 a.m. courses my Freshman year) definitely helps to build character and personal resolve. This work ethic, and the ability to juggle multiple projects simultaneously has continued to assist me in my international work.

Kester's PhD graduation from the University of Cambridge in 2017
Photo: Kester's PhD graduation from the prestigious University of Cambridge in 2017. Photo taken at the Mathematical Bridge of Queens' College, University of Cambridge.

Q: What has been your Greatest Accomplishment in life so far?  

I have several notable accomplishments in my young career. Perhaps the most notable accomplishment has been my work with United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and my admission into the various Fellowships of Fitzwilliam and Queens' Colleges, Cambridge, 2016-2017. 

My most notable personal achievement has been my travel experience to over 40 countries and every continent, where I have enjoyed work in diverse settings, varied rituals, cuisines, languages, and ways of life that have challenged my own. I have learned a tremendous plethora of ways that people make meaning (joy and happiness) out of life. I have also seen a number of terrible consequences of the promotion by governments and corporations of capitalism, colonialism, and civilization over the past century. This should make us all pause and think!

Q: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years? 

In the next two years, I will publish 6-10 articles in high-profile internationally peer-reviewed journals. I will also complete an edited book with my supervisor, Dr Hilary Cremin, on new models for peace and education in the 21st century. My long-term aim is to combine my PhD and postdoctoral research into a monograph on power and pedagogy within United Nations educational peace work, and to lead a research agenda into decolonizing education. By examining the vital cultural work the UN and international education perform, despite their limitations and contradictions, such a study will help scholars to understand why, even today, education proves so attractive to so many as a tool for peace.

Q: What advice do you have for current and future MC participants who want to make the most out of the program?

Think big. There are ample opportunities for travel, scholarships, career advancement, and personal discovery while at [the] university; let MC support this, and link MC's resources with those at your university and with external funding agencies, etc. MC is a conduit for opportunities and exploration, and it provides a stable platform for risk-taking students who are creative. You must take the initiative though.

Kester at the famous Roman Ruins in Rome, Italy in 2015.
Photo: Kester at the famous Roman Ruins in Rome, Italy in 2015.

Q: What else would you like to share about yourself?

I was also a Visiting Scholar at Yale University (2015), and have published extensively in academic journals and book contracts. In addition, I worked on Development and Education projects in Somalia, Papua New Guinea, India, Mexico, Belize, Panama, Argentina, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Taiwan, Cambodia, Korea and Japan, etc. (including projects with the UN), to gain further experience in the field.

Q: What is your favorite quote/life motto?

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs more is people who have come alive. - Howard Thurman

Disclaimer: Permission for use of images and story for MC Spotlight only. Kevin Kester can be reached by email for at

The End

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