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2015 CIF Alumni Spotlight: Laura Colosky


Laura Colosky (right), with fellow student Shaden Beltran at CIF students conference in Hiroshima, April 2015.

Laura Colosky was a student at Santa Catalina School in Monterey, California, when she attended the CIF Spring Conference in Hiroshima, Japan.

While there, Laura learned that there are many ways to approach solving a problem. Everyone who attended the conference researched the same material, delving into nuclear weapon history and treaties, but for Laura the truly poignant part of each presentation was the final solution each group offered. Some chose to seek revisions of various treaties or drafted new ones, while others sought to incorporate values that promote peace through education, and still others suggested raising awareness by using social media like Facebook, Instagram, and twitter. There are so many ideas available when students come together from all over the world to discuss and collaborate. It was an amazing experience.

Laura liked how each student had a unique perspective to contribute to the cause of the peace and security of a nuclear free world, and, by sharing a common goal, students were able to connect to one another regardless of any cultural barriers. They were at the conference for one reason; to help create peace, and with that shared objective the students were able to develop meaningful friendships.

A moment Laura will forever take to heart was when the students listened to and spoke with a Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor. Laura really felt that she was meant to hear her story so that she could learn from her. This gentle and charismatic 78 year old woman described in detail the trauma she suffered when she was just eight years old. She was walking to school one early morning when, in an instant, she was blinded by scorching white light, badly wounded from the surrounding debris that had scattered in all directions. When she regained her senses of sight and hearing she found herself amidst hundreds of dead, dying, and terribly wounded people all frantically seeking medical attention, shelter, and safe food and water. This graphic recollection made everything Laura had studied for the last few months seem dull in comparison. The Hiroshima atomic bomb incident was no longer just a far off piece of history that she was not connected to, but an event occurring in front of her through this woman’s memory.

Not only did she talk about her experience during the bombing, but the shame and guilt she carried throughout her life afterwards; those who survived were stigmatized by the unaffected communities rather than supported and uplifted as Laura had expected. As she watched the hibakusha relive her experiences, Laura could only imagine a fraction of the unbearable pain and despair she must have felt. Laura was shocked that such unnecessary pain and suffering could be inflicted in less than a second.

Before she began this journey, Laura grew up believing in the security and safety nuclear weapons provided America with. Now she has come to the realization that the development of nuclear weapons has only given rise to more fear and mistrust in the global community, and that out of fear the darkest creations of mankind emerge.

Stumbling upon this truth in a most personal experience has inspired Laura to seek peaceful methods of rebuilding trust and diminishing fear within the American and Japanese communities. Together, youth leaders from both cultures can raise awareness by participating in the origami challenge and using the social media tools available. By folding a paper crane in memory of Sadako’s struggle to survive, and posting it to Instagram, Facebook, or twitter, anyone can be part of the movement to abolish nuclear weapons. Signing petitions or writing letters to politicians seeking the abolition of nuclear weapons is also a great option for future leaders.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.” By starting with students like Laura and other young people worldwide, the U.S. and Japan can rebuild the bridges of trust to create a more peaceful, prosperous society wherein nuclear weapons do not need to exist.

Useful Twitter Handles

Here you will find useful twitter handles, from organizations to experts in the field. We’ve created a diverse collection of viewpoints, so please keep in mind that organizations and persons might have agendas that do not always fall in line with the perspective and ideals upheld by the Critical Issues Forum.

@CIF_CNS – The CIF Conference Twitter

*Check back for regular updates!*

International Organizations

@UN_Disarmament – The United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs
@iaeaorg – The International Atomic Energy Agency
@ctbto_alerts – The Comprehensive Test Ban Treat Organization
@UNIDIR – United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research

NGOs/Civil Society/Think Tanks

@nuclearban – The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
@thegoodisis – Institute for Science and International Security
@belfercenter – Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
@csis – Center for Strategic and International Studies
@sipriorg – Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
@brookingsfp – Brookings Institution
@stimsoncenter – Stimson Center
@BulletinAtomic – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
@theatomproject1 – The Atom Project
@CFR_org – Council on Foreign Relations
@CNS_DC – The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (D.C.)
@CNS_updates – The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (Monterey)
@VCDNP – The Vienna Center for Nonproliferation and Disarmament
@UCSUSA – Union of Concerned Scientists
@globalzero – Global Zero


@RCW_ – Reaching Critical Will (feminist perspective on Arms Control)
@38NorthNK – Analysis of Nuclear Events in/around the DPRK
@wildfire_v – A group promoting the abolition of nuclear weapons via satire
@GlobalActionPW – Human Security Policy Commentary
@EarlyWarningPF – The biweekly newsletter issued by Ploughshares Fund on nuclear issues
@rethink_media – Information on security issues


@CNS_MasakoToki – Director of CIF
@armscontrolwonk – Dr. Jeffrey Lewis
@cirincione – Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund
@BeaFihn – Beatrice Fihn, head of ICAN
@KelseyDav – Kelsey Davenport, director of Arms Control Association


*Organizations found under analysis may also fall into the NGO/Civil Society category, however they mainly focus on tweeting commentary instead of focusing too heavily on organizational interests.

It may also be worth checking out the pages for governments of interest, as they often tweet issues related to #nuclear.

2013 CIF Alumni Spotlight: Kokoro Aso

Kokoro Aso, second from the left

Four Years after CIF Kokoro continues to be active in Disarmament Efforts

It has been 4 years since I participated in the Critical Issues Forum. I still have a strong passion to create a peaceful world without any nuclear weapons. Since I am a past CIF participant, I am convinced of the importance of education. I especially think how much I’ve learned about what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a part of peace studies in Nagasaki. I was raised in Nagasaki where the atomic bomb was dropped following Hiroshima in 1945. I also was a student of Kwassui high school where many teachers and students died because of the atomic bomb. Kwassui has a peace studies club, and many students are working on various kinds of peace activities including not only the CIF conference, but also a campaign to gain 10000’s high school students signatures, Hiroshima Nagasaki Peace Messenger, and so on.

I’m a student at Sophia University now. My major is Education, and I especially am interested in peace education. Through my experiences and learning in the university, I am now focusing on how we can improve the quality of education. From last September (2016) to this July, I was in the United States on a study abroad program. During the time I was in America, I tried to communicate with people about what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In fact, I was surprised that many people I met know about Hiroshima and Nagasaki as cities where A-bomb was dropped. However, most of them don’t know the effects of the radiation that many atomic bomb survivors are still suffering.

Even though many powerful countries in the world including Japan rely on nuclear power, only a few people feel a sense of danger. I would like to be the one who can convey how dangerous and cruel nuclear weapons and radiation can be. In addition, I have a responsibility to convey to people what the atomic bomb survivors have experienced as a person who has listened to the real story from the atomic bomb survivors. The important thing is knowing the real information, and now is the very last chance to listen and learn from the atomic bomb survivors.

Kokoro Shares her Experience after CIF

Kokoro Aso attended Kwassui High School in Nagasaki, which is only 500 meters from the epicenter of the 1945 atomic bombing. As such, the teachers and students make special efforts to do peace activities. Kokoro feels that this foundation provided her with a solid grasp of how important disarmament education and research is, in that it can change the entire world.

At Kwassui, she took part in the peace studies club, as well as the 10,000 high school students signatures campaign. In her Junior year, she became the 16th peace messenger and was able to visit the United Nations office in Geneva. While there, Kokoro spoke her intent to create a world free of nuclear weapons, handing in all the signatures she had collected. After she finished her tasks in Geneva, she joined disarmament lecture meetings and symposiums around Japan.

One of the most striking things Kokoro found about working in peace education was that many of the people she encountered didn’t know about what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Consequently, she decided to learn as much as she could about the subject so that she could better communicate the importance of peace to the next generation, and to the world.

Of course, Kokoro cites Critical Issues Forum (CIF) as one of her most precious experiences. Taking part in the conference allowed her to interact with students from various countries, with whom she discussed topics such as how to create a better world. Students encouraged each other to study and learn more about the subject, and although there were cultural barriers, they found they were able to confide in each other. Even the teachers Kokoro met from different countries listened to her opinions and helped challenge her thinking.

Kokoro continues to engage in peace activities to this day, and plans to continue her studies in the United States. She wants to spread the message about how horrible war, terrorism, and other forms of conflict, including the potential use of nuclear weapons, are. Her generation may be the last that can hear about the real experiences of atomic bomb survivors, directly from the source. Kokoro feels that as a result, it is the responsibility of her and her peers to pass on stories about what happened under the mushroom cloud and how cruel nuclear weapons are.

Currently, Kokoro majors in Education at her university. Through her peace activities, including CIF, she met many great educators, who told her to continue striving for a better future. She would like to thank all the people she met through CIF, because she feels they represent the vision of change she now holds. Now, thanks to them, she strongly believes that education and outreach has the power to change the world.

2014 CIF Alumni Spotlight: Emma Russell

Emma Russell, podium, speaks with fellow students at the CIF Conference


Emma Russell, a recent graduate from Santa Catalina School and current freshman at Bates College, was an exemplar participant in the 2014 Spring Critical Issues Forum (CIF) Conference. Emma cited her experiences at CIF leading her to an increased interest in international peace and security. Not only did CIF generate and solidify her interest in politics, but Emma reported that it taught her essential skills that she was able to implement at school. She praised how her participation in the conference allowed her to strengthen her academic skills, such as learning how to conduct research, becoming comfortable with public speaking, and articulating her thoughts in a clear and precise manner.

However, for Emma, the highlight of her time with CIF was meeting Japanese students through the conference. She noted that this increased her capacity for cross-cultural communication and her appreciation for the unique aspects of Japanese culture. In particular, Emma said that she was struck how the students she met were shaped by the tragic events of August 1945, Atomic bombings, which lead to their interest in peace education. Although Japanese students had quite different approaches toward international peace and security, participating in CIF allowed Emma to understand the Japanese students’ viewpoint, in turn expanding her worldview.

She also highlighted her experience as a host sister to some of the students, which gave her a closer look at Japanese customs and language in a relaxed setting. Emma was introduced to a variety of new interests and activities within Japanese culture, including food, clothing, pop culture, and of course the relevant issues of international peace and security. She made lasting friendship, both with the students she hosted and with others who took part in CIF.

Emma stated that by the end of the conference, she knew she wanted to major in international relations in college, turning her involvement at CIF into a career in Washington, D.C. Her heightened knowledge of nonproliferation and disarmament in combination with her new interest in US-Japan relations, as well as her ability to communicate with people of other countries, has primed her for this new career path.

All in all, Emma stated that CIF opened doors that she never thought existed. She discovered that she had a passion for international peace and security and cross-cultural communication. She was able to identify a future career path in the field of politics, particularly focusing on nonproliferation and disarmament issues, and US-Japan relations.  Her time conversing and living with people from Japan gave her a fresh perspective on world events. In fact, Emma stated that she gained so much insight on world politics, particularly relating to foreign policy, that she felt more ready to undertake her college experience. She encouraged everyone to take advantage of the valuable and prestigious opportunity that CIF presents, with the hope that it will change the way that future high school students think, as it did with her.




2015 CIF Alumni Spotlight: Karin Okuda

Karin Okuda, right, speaking at the CIF Conference


Karin Okuda has always been aware of the horrific nature of nuclear weapons. Her school, Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School lost 330 students and 20 staff members during the bombings in 1945, which has fueled their extraordinary peace education program. Karin grew up listening to the testimonies of Hibakusha and learning about the significance of nuclear disarmament. While she acutely felt the importance of disseminating Hiroshima’s peace message around the world, it was not easy for her, as a high school student, to find out how to best reach people in different countries.

The Critical Issues Forum (CIF) project was a great opportunity for Karin to get one step closer to her dream of working for world peace and security. She participated in the 2014 Spring Conference, held in Monterey, where she presented on the daunting challenges of creating a world free of nuclear weapons. Karin enjoyed the experience so much that she also took part in the 2015 Spring Conference, acting as the emcee.

According to Karin, the CIF project gave her a fresh perspective on nuclear disarmament issues. Meeting with students from the United States and discussing how to achieve peace significantly widened her worldview. She was impressed by the American students’ passion for disarmament. It was very stimulating for her to see that students from the United States were discussing their country’s policy making process in regards to nuclear weapons. Seeing that she shared a common goal of a world free of nuclear weapons with the American students motivated Karin to work more diligently for peace and security.

During the 2014 Conference, Karin stayed with an American host family. She called the experience eye-opening, noting it deepened her understanding of American culture and friendship. It was this homestay that inspired to share her own culture with American students during the 2015 Conference in Hiroshima. She assisted in orienting the visiting schools, leading a tour, and showing heartwarming hospitality. Karin was literally a “peace ambassador” to strengthen the friendship between the United States and Japan, spreading the message of Hiroshima to the world.

Through the CIF project, Karin also stated that she was able to develop confidence in areas where she had previously been lacking. She strengthened her passion for peace and security, while enhancing her knowledge of intercultural communication. Based on her time with CIF, Karin believes that there is no barrier among hearts, although sometimes it does seem impossible to reconcile differences among governments. She has stated that she will cherish the friendships she developed through CIF, as friendship across cultures is critical in working towards a world free of nuclear weapons. The experience multiplied Karin’s desire to be a true “global citizen”, transcending differences between countries, and she is now determined to grown into a leader who can contribute to peace, security, and strengthening the friendship between the United States and Japan.



2015 CIF Alumni Spotlight: Carlo Govantes


Carlo Govantes recently graduated from Rock University High School in Janesville, Wisconsin. He was selected by the Governing Board of his school to be the leader of a five-member team during the Critical Issues Forum’s Spring 2015 Conference in Hiroshima, Japan. Carlo was selected by the Board because of his passion and vision for peace and security via international diplomacy.

This is a particularly amazing feat considering Carlo’s unique childhood experience; until 2011, he lived in the United States without legal status. However, in 2013, President Obama provided Carlo with the opportunity to apply for status as a “Dreamer”. The Dream Act allows immigrants who have grown up in the United States to obtain a temporary permit to remain in the U.S. for work and education. Under the Dream Act, Carlo now has legal status, which allowed him to apply for permission to travel to Hiroshima and participate in CIF. The experience also gave him faith in the U.S. system in that they recognized his genuine desire to improve upon the quality of life for the country and worldwide.

As a young boy, Carlo noted he had a strong fascination with Japan, including an interest in culture, history, and an origami hobby. He became an unofficial member of the 2014 CIF team by developing an international friendship between students from Rock University High School and Kwassui High School, from Nagasaki, Japan. The direct result of Carlo’s leadership and professionalism was an invitation during the 2015 Conference from Kwassui High School to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for intercultural partnership.

Carlo’s interest in peace and security grew by leaps and bounds during his participation in CIF. The conference introduced him head on to the dangers of nuclear weapons and their role in politics. It also demonstrated to him that peace between nations would be easier without such weapons standing on hair-trigger alert.

In meeting with Japanese high school students, Carlo learned that many of them have a passion for peace and a drive to further educate the rest of the world on the risk humans are taking with nuclear weapons. Carlo feels that students in Japan are much more aware of the challenges presented by nuclear weapons. He even learned that Japanese schools often have peace clubs, which tackle international issues such as nonproliferation and disarmament.

The CIF project became a bridge for him to make partnerships with schools in Japan and within the U.S. It also deepened his knowledge of nuclear disarmament. Like all relationships among countries, Carlo noted that it is important to keep strengthening ties to one another. It is important that both Japanese and U.S. high school students learn from the mistakes of the past and consequently, how to prevent future mistakes in disarmament. Not only is working together important for reaching the goals of peace and security; it is the only way.

As a graduating student, the experience of participating in CIF impacted both Carlo’s career path and his major. It inspired him to work towards not only an engineering career, but also to a path of education for future generations. He has decided on attending college to learn various abilities such as software development, engineering, and International business. Carlo will be the second child in his family to attend college in the United States, and he accredits that directly to CIF. It showed him why continuing to study would be the best way to support both my family and to reach his dreams.

Carlo has stated that he will continue to work hard towards a career that can influence peace and promote hope for friendships between nations through diplomacy and the exchange of culture. He recommends that current students take part in the experiences CIF has to offer, thinking hard on the problems at hand and what kind of solutions they can create. He will be forever grateful for the opportunity to be a part of CIF’s legacy.

2013 CIF Alumni Spotlight: Alexander Thompson

Alexander Thompson, left, gives a presentation at the CIF Conference with fellow students

Alexander Thompson was a student at the Janesville Academy for International Studies in Janesville, Wisconsin. He participated in the 2013 CIF project, and attributes his work there as some of the most important he has ever done in terms of his career and college path.

Alex believes that he gained an incredibly unique and personal insight through a variety of topics in the field of nuclear disarmament, most of which were in relation to the Japanese experience of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Through the CIF project, he learned the effects of the use of nuclear weapons against civilians in those two cities. The Japanese students he met had families and friends who had been effected by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; hearing their stories profoundly affected Alex. Global security and disarmament became strong focuses in his life following his participation in CIF.

Furthermore, the CIF conference sparked a new passion for Japan within him. Its culture, its language, its history, and even contemporary issues were all extremely interesting to him. So much so that he decided during his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to double major in Global Studies and Japanese. Three years later, he is now a junior who is heavily involved in his university’s Japanese program. Alex is also employed as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for the Japanese language. He works as a volunteer at a Japanese immersion school outside of Milwaukee, and hopes to study abroad in Nagoya, Chiba, or Osaka. All of which, in great part, he attributes to the CIF project.

Alex says if it wasn’t for CIF, perhaps he never would have discovered his interest in learning Japanese, or even his desire to become a globally-minded citizen. He believes the program has influenced his career path immensely, from fostering friendships with Japanese students to influencing his passion for intercultural communication. For Alex, the “ah-ha!” moment in his life was participating in CIF. Naturally, his future plan is to work in the field to enhance the U.S.-Japan relationship, especially these two countries’ cooperation for peace and security in a world free of nuclear weapons.

The CIF project gave Alex the opportunity to act as a youth leader in world peace and security while fostering lifetime friendships with students from another country. He strongly recommends the experience to other students, as it changed both his worldview and his life.







2014-2015 Student Work

Below are the first mini-projects of the CIF 2014-2015 Program. These are not revised drafts of student work. All schools have received feedback from the project manager for further revision.

Featured Projects

Japanese Schools

Hiroshima Jogakuin Senior High School
Project: Nuclear Weapons

Yasuda Girls High School
Topic: Nuclear Weapons 

Yokohama Senior High School of International Studies
Topic: Nuclear Weapons

Russian Schools

Gymnasium #41, Novouralsk
Topic: Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)

Gymnasia #164, Zelenogorsk
Topic: Nuclear Disarmament

U.S. Schools

Choate Rosemary Hall
Topic: Nuclear Weapons

Cushing Academy
Topic: Nuclear Weapons

Harker School
Topic: Nuclear Weapons

Mid-Pacific Institute
Topic: The State of Nuclear Weapons

Presque Isle High School
Topic: Nuclear Disarmament

Pasadena High School
Topic: Nuclear Weapons

Rock University High School
Topic: Nuclear Disarmament: Humanitarian Approach

Santa Catalina High School
Topic: Nuclear Weapons

2014-2015 Teachers’ Workshop Agenda

*As of December 4th, 2014*

Adobe Connect Meeting URL:

Streaming from the MIIS Digital Learning Commons Studio

All listed dates and times are US Pacific Standard Time (PST) unless noted otherwise. For local time conversion, use this site.


Tuesday, December 2nd

3:00 PM – 3:30 PM (PST)
Welcome Remarks
Bryan Lee, Interim Deputy Director and Director, Eurasia Nonproliferation Program at CNS

Overview of the CIF Project and Teachers Workshop
Masako Toki, Project Manager, Nonproliferation Education Program and CNS Research Associate

 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM (PST)
Introduction of 2014-2015 Mini-Projects
Masako Toki, Project Manager, Nonproliferation Education Program and CNS Research Associate

 Wednesday, December 3rd

10:00 AM -11:30 AM (PST)
Lecture 1: Introduction to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regimes, Amanda Moodie, Research Associate, International Organizations & Nonproliferation Program

12:00 PM -1:30 PM (PST)
Lecture 2: 2015 NPT Review Conference and the Humanitarian Initiative, Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, Director, International Organization and Nonproliferation Program CNS, Washington DC

2:00 PM – 3:30 PM (PST)
Lecture 3: Nuclear Weapons in Today’s World: Where Are We, How Did We Get Here, and the Future, Dr. Jeffrey Knopf, Program Chair, Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies, MIIS


Thursday, December 4th

3:00 PM – 4:30 PM (PST)
Lecture 4: What are nuclear weapons? Scientific Perspectives. Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, Adjunct Professor & Scientist in Residence

Friday, December 5th

9:30 AM – 10:30 AM (PST)
Lecture 5: Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Impact of the actual use of nuclear weapons Masako Toki, Project Manager, Nonproliferation Education Program and CNS Research Associate

Monday, December 8th

3:00 PM – 5:00 PM (PST)
Lecture 6: Effects of the Use of Nuclear Weapons, Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, Adjunct Professor & Scientist in Residence

 Tuesday, December 9th

 3:00 -4:30 PM (PST)
Lecture 7: Advancing Nuclear Disarmament: The Role of P-5, Benjamin Pack, CNS Research Associate

 Wednesday, December 10th

 10:30 AM -12:00 PM (PST)
Lecture 8: Role of Civil Society in Nuclear disarmament, Rhianna Kreger, Managing Editor, The Nonproliferation Review & WMD Junction

Thursday, December 11th

 2:30 PM-3:00 PM (PST)
Introducing Peace and Disarmament Education in Hiroshima by Chinobu Takami and Gerald O’Sullivan, Hiroshima Jogakuin High School

 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM (PST)
Introducing Useful Resources, Masako Toki

3:30 PM-4:30 PM (PST)
Wrap Up Session, and Discussion for the Spring Conference, Masako Toki


 Monday, December 15th

10:00 AM -12:00 PM (PST)
Lecture 9: Economic Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Stephen Schwartz, Editor, The Nonproliferation Review & WMD Junction


Tuesday, December 16th

 10:00 AM-12:00 PM (PST)

Workshop 1: How to Cite Sources Correctly, Stephen Schwartz

Workshop 2: How to Make Effective Presentations, Stephen Schwartz

Workshop 3: Focusing Your Message, Stephen Schwartz