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PSS Fall '09 - From Theory to Practice

Hill & Quad

HWS Peace Corps Numbers Swell

by Melissa Sue Sorrells '05

Peace Corps Logo

It's not unusual to find HWS community members engaged in global issues. Or sharing stories about traveling abroad with a relief agency. Or dedicating their careers to not-for-profits.

Which is why three years ago, the number '8' struck some at the Colleges as odd.

"When we looked at the number of HWS graduates actively engaged in the Peace Corps, we counted eight," explains Associate Director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning Katie Flowers. "With a president who is the former director of the Peace Corps, a large number of faculty, staff and alums who were Peace Corps volunteers, and the Colleges' ongoing commitment to global education, that number seemed low."

Working with HWS Peace Corps recruiters, including current Regional Recruiter Shannon Small, Flowers and others devised an objective - to increase the number of recent graduates joining the Peace Corps from 8 to 20 in just three years. "It was just so we'd have something to work toward," Flowers says. "I wasn't sure if we'd make it."

In June, Small alerted the Colleges that it had met its goal early, and in September, HWS was recognized by Washington Monthly as 37th in the nation for the number of Peace Corps volunteers it has produced.

"It was extraordinary that HWS took such initiative in creating opportunities for students to learn about the Peace Corps," says Small, herself a former Peace Corps volunteer. "The HWS staff members had some really great ideas, and students responded with similar enthusiasm."

One of the major draws has been Pizza with the Peace Corps. Students who may be interested in volunteering are invited to join Small, Flowers and several HWS faculty and staff members who spent time in the Peace Corps for a discussion over lunch.

"Right now, we have 20 students in the pipeline, and several more going through the application process. We may actually surpass our own goal," says Flowers. "It's great when a plan comes together, especially when it means that our students are getting the opportunity of a lifetime."

 
Jennifer Leshnower '00

Jessica Werder '04 and husband Matt Lyttle '06

Jessica Werder '04 and husband Matt Lyttle '06 are nearing the end of their two-year commitment to the Peace Corps in rural Nicaragua. "We absolutely believe that the community we experienced and education we received at HWS was perfect for budding Peace Corps volunteers," says Lyttle. "The focus on local and international community involvement, whether through a semester abroad in a developing country, a Saturday volunteering in Geneva or the powerful words of a visiting speaker, prepared us for this."

 
Jennifer Leshnower '00

Jennifer Leshnower '00

Jennifer Leshnower '00 returned to campus in to share her Peace Corps experiences with students. "At HWS I learned that all of the knowledge in the world is worthless unless you apply it to something real," says Leshnower, who just completed her tour in the West Indies after earning dual masters in social work and public administration at Columbia University and serving in Americorps VISTA. "Using the experiential learning techniques I participated in at HWS really helped me while I was in the West Indies."

 
Professor of Art Michael Bogin

Professor of Art Michael Bogin

Professor of Art Michael Bogin taught secondary math in a small village in Ghana with the Peace Corps from 1968 to 1970 before earning his M.F.A. at Indiana University. "On my first day in Ghana, I learned, quite quickly, that just because things are different or done differently doesn't mean they are wrong," says Bogin, an abstract oil painter. "That's a valuable lesson for me as an artist, as a teacher and as a person."