Peace Corps Fellows to enrich BGSU campus life
BOWLING GREEN, O.—When Dr. Margaret Zoller Booth returned from the Peace Corps in 1985, she felt that her experience teaching in Kenya helped shape her decision about what to do after completing a teaching job in Cleveland. Funding through the Peace Corps Fellows/USA program enabled her to pursue her graduate degree in education at Ohio University.
Through Booth’s efforts, Bowling Green State University was recently named a Fellows site and will provide financial assistance to help other returning volunteers obtain degrees in the BGSU Master of Arts in Cross-cultural and International Education (MACIE) program. The University becomes one of about 40 institutions across the country in the Peace Corps Fellows program, and now one of only two in Ohio—the other is the University of Cincinnati.
The Fellows/USA office works with participating universities to establish affiliations with foundations or other organizations to provide funding and to find grant support. It also offers numerous other types of assistance.
Building on experience
As the Peace Corps Web site puts it, the Fellows program helps volunteers “take what (they) have learned overseas and use it to build a better future rather than storing it away as a memory of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
It also supports the third goal of the Peace Corps, Booth said, which is bringing back home the understanding of other cultures that volunteers have gained through their experience. While most people are probably familiar with the first two of the corps’ goals—to help people in underdeveloped countries build skills and knowledge and to promote understanding of the U.S. abroad—the last is just as important, she noted.
It is a perfect match for MACIE, whose goal is preparing educators to effectively teach an increasingly diverse group of students, and at the same time prepare those students to be successful in an increasingly internationalized world.
“The people who returned from the Peace Corps when I did are the most motivated, interested and successful group of people I’ve ever met in my life,” said Booth, now MACIE coordinator and an associate professor in educational foundations and inquiry.
Statistics show there is a greater percentage of advanced degrees among returnees than among the general population, she said. “There’s a disproportionate number of professionals. Many come back hooked on teaching or go into health-related fields, becoming MDs or getting their Ph.D.’s in public health, or nursing degrees.
“Being in that environment and seeing the needs around the world inspires them to stay involved. I wanted to attract that kind of person to our MACIE program,” she said. As a student with other returned volunteers, she found that they had a “good impact on the campus,” she said. “They raise the bar. The experiences they’ve had come into the classroom and filter into campus life. They joined or started organizations, became teaching assistants and, when needed, stepped in to teach languages such as Kiswahili or Arabic or Zulu.”
The requirements of the Fellows/USA program dovetail with MACIE’s. Peace Corps Fellows must complete an internship in an underserved area of the United States. MACIE students must fulfill a cross-cultural internship, either in another country or in the U.S., working with a group that is underrepresented or culturally different from the student’s own. For returning Peace Corps Fellows, this could mean working with Native Americans, local migrant workers or other immigrant populations, for instance.
Dr. Martha Gaustad, former associate dean of the College of Education and Human Development, was helpful in the approval process of BGSU’s becoming a Fellows site, as was Dr. Deanne Snavely, acting dean of the Graduate College.
"I support the collaboration between BGSU's MACIE program and the Peace Corps as I believe this will bring highly motivated graduate students to BGSU whose strong experiential learning credentials from their Peace Corps projects will enhance our graduate community," Snavely said.
BGSU ties to the Peace Corps
The University has had a long association with the Peace Corps. According to Christine Torres, public affairs specialist in the Chicago regional office, BGSU has eight alumni currently serving in the corps, and 199 graduates have served since 1961, when the agency was formed under President John F. Kennedy.
In a recent survey of 44,064 U.S. undergraduates published in BusinessWeek, students rated the Peace Corps as the No. 8 “Most Ideal Employer” to meet their career goals. The study found that the corps appeals to students whose goals include wanting to contribute to society and pursue further education.
Peace Corps recruiter and former volunteer Kristin Wegner will be on campus Oct. 2 and 3 to provide information, share her experiences and interview applicants. Those who want to learn more about the agency can attend an information session at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 2 in 114 Education Building.
For more on MACIE, see www.bgsu.edu/colleges/edhd/edfi/macie/index.htm and www.bgsu.edu/offices/mc/monitor/10-30-06/page24413.html.
For more on the Fellows/USA program, visit www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.media.press.view&news_id=1371.
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(Posted September 22, 2008 )