Where this Falcon Flew: Alison Kemp

How Alison Kemp’s Experience at BGSU Helped Prepare her to Change the World

Alison Kemp graduated from Bowling Green in 2009, but her path to success starts with an unknown passion for international relations. Her time at Bowling Green State University helped to shape the person she is now, and this past Homecoming Weekend, Alison was recognized as one of BGSU’s top ten alumni that have graduated within the past ten years. Alison’s major, print journalism, would eventually lead to her to becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer and using social media to help curb down on the AIDS epidemic in a small African country called Eswatini. To better understand her story, it is important to first journey through Kemp’s college years at BGSU to see how her time here led her to helping to change the world.

When Alison started at Bowling Green as a first-year student, she knew that she wanted to major in Print Journalism. Looking back, Alison remembers that her advisor had been a Peace Corps volunteer, but as an undergraduate student, becoming a volunteer had not crossed her mind. During this time, Alison had a minor in German, and hoped that she would one day end up living in Germany. BGSU gave her the opportunity to study abroad twice through the Salzburg program in Salzburg, Austria. Looking back, Alison says this opportunity began to show her the passion she has for working in the global community.

Yet, perhaps one of the most important aspects of her time at BGSU was the opportunity the Honors College gave her to get involved here on campus by establishing a sense of community. During her first fall at Bowling Green, the Honors Living Learning Community took students to the ice arena here on campus. Students could choose between ice skating and learning to curl. It was on this night that Alison found an unknown passion in curling and she was asked to join the intramural team that night. She would later go on to help start the Campus Curling Club. Alison’s experience is one that the Honors College often echoes to students. Academics are vital, but the Honors College helping to provide comfort and confidence to its students sets them up for success.

Eventually, Alison’s interest in international work led her to the University of Utah, where she studied to obtain her Master of Public Health with a focus in Global Health. After a trip to Ghana, where she completed a research study on the disposal and storage of poisons, Alison says she began to realize that working in this context was something that she wanted to continue to do. It was after this experience that Alison’s professors started suggesting that the Peace Corps may be of great interest to her.

While some may wonder how a print journalism degree was effective in a public health field, Alison says that her background from Bowling Green gave her a different perspective that other students in her master’s program did not have. Through her time at BGSU, Alison was given many different skills including a strong writing background and the ability to talk and interview people. Alison says these skills became even more beneficial when she joined the Peace Corps.

...that is the beauty of this university. It has the potential to take you places you never thought possible After graduating with her master’s degree, Alison officially was accepted as a volunteer in the United States Peace Corps, and she began her twenty-seven-month mission. She was placed in Swaziland, which is now globally recognized as the country of Eswatini. After spending two years in the country, Alison felt as though she had not been able to do enough to make a true impact. An opportunity arose for her to extend for a third year through Population Services International, or PSI. It was during this third year that Alison’s two degrees began to come together. According to Alison, 28 percent of Eswatini’s population is HIV positive. Through this third year, Alison says she gained a greater understanding of HIV as well as the different resources now available to help those who are HIV positive. In Eswatini, specifically, care for these patients has become much more accessible in recent years. Alison helped to establish better social media practices so that the country’s citizens could be more informed on the process of getting tested and accessing care. One of Alison’s main goals, according to her, is to help find the “missing positives.” These are the people who are HIV positive but have either not been tested or are not currently being treated.

Today, Alison has recently finished her third year with the Peace Corps and has extended her contract for a fourth year. She is now working specifically with the Peace Corps focusing on Communications in Eswatini.

For Alison, she says one of her biggest pieces of advice to current students is to think of whatever you may be interested in, find it on campus, and give it a try. There are a plethora of opportunities at Bowling Green, and Alison suggests trying any of them that you may be interested in. For her, she found a passion for curling and eventually help to found the BGSU Curling Club. And for students who may be interested in the Peace Corps, Alison says to expand your horizons. Students that have an experience with traveling abroad and living within a culture that is unlike their own are attractive candidates. The Peace Corps wants to see that the people who are volunteering are going to be able to live with people that are different from yourself.

As Homecoming Weekend has come and gone, Alison will soon be back in Eswatini, once again helping to improve the lives of people living there. Her story shows us that, for all incoming, current and alumni students, the experience you gain at Bowling Green is much more valuable than the degree itself. Stepping onto campus, Alison could have never imagined spending her time in a remote country in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Yet, that is the beauty of this university. It has the potential to take you places you never thought possible.

Updated: 07/06/2020 11:38AM