A global perspective
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers share their skills far and wide
By Jessica Batterton
Since 2008, over 45 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) have attended BGSU as Paul D. Coverdell Fellows. These students have brought geographical diversity to the BGSU campus, representing the East and West Coasts, the Midwest and even Hawaii. Additionally, their combined Peace Corps experiences as educators, health workers, community organizers and small business developers overseas have enriched BGSU’s classrooms with a global perspective.
Dr. Margaret Booth initiated the Coverdell Fellows program at BGSU by developing a partnership with the Peace Corps that helped RPCVs earn a master’s degree in cross-cultural and international education. Since then, the Fellows program has expanded to allow RPCVs the opportunity to work toward 16 different graduate degrees in the following areas: college student personnel, higher education, French, history, interdisciplinary gerontology, media and communication, technology management, tourism, leisure and event planning, Spanish, food and nutrition, business administration, public administration, American cultural studies, and cross-cultural and international education.
As part of the program’s requirements, Fellows complete an internship that contributes to an underserved community in the United States. The internship accomplishes a third goal of the Peace Corps, which aims “to promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.” The internship also provides Fellows an opportunity to combine their coursework with public service and meaningfully apply the skills they developed abroad to their local communities. Fellows at BGSU have completed internships with organizations such as buildOn, Ohio Migrant Education Center, Kids Unlimited, Rural Opportunities and the United Way.
These students also impact the Bowling Green community in a number of ways. Jasmine Blaine, a student in the master’s of public administration program, volunteers with La Conexión, a small non-profit that works to establish and nurture connections among Latinos within Wood County.
Blaine was a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama, where she worked with her local community to build aqueducts and sustainable stoves. Her Peace Corps experience motivated her to assist low-income agricultural workers meet their basic needs and realize their human rights. While at BGSU, her interest in migrant workers led her to become involved in La Conexión. She has helped to develop a translation service that raises funds for the organization and tutors a local third grade girl in English. Blaine values the time she spends working with La Conexión, stating she “finds meaning in volunteering and enjoys giving back to the community.”
In addition to their internships, RPCVs also give back through their graduate assistantship positions. Jeremy Doughty, who taught 6-11 grade English in Ukraine, currently works as the assistant director of Co-Curricular Programs in the Office of Service Learning.
“This position has been a really nice way for me to translate my service on an international stage to a more local and domestic setting,” said Doughty. He plans and participates in service activities in and around Bowling Green, like Service Saturdays and the MLK Jr. Day of Service Challenge. He has also served as an advisor and participant in two alternative spring breaks: one that focused on poverty and homelessness in Detroit and one that concentrated on water and environmental issues in Murphy, N.C. He said his Peace Corps experience pushed him “to think in creative ways, be innovative, resourceful, and work with what you’ve got.”
Fellows have started an organization for RPCVs both on campus and in the community, in addition to individuals who are interested in the Peace Corps and its mission. The group organizes cultural activities, such as documentary screenings and panel discussions, to spread knowledge of other countries. They also volunteer in the community and have recently partnered with La Conexión to develop and implement a mentorship program for adolescent students in Wood County.
After graduation, many Fellows pursue careers that are either international or cross-cultural in scope. Moreover, the program has produced three Fulbright scholars, culturally competent educators, advocates for underserved populations, and has helped to build the academic foundation for those who continue on to a Ph.D. program.
“Fellows are effecting undergraduate students’ experiences and, at least, opening their minds to new things that they have not considered before,” said Doughty.
“It really helps with involvement…and bringing people together and learning more about international studies,” said Blair.
To become involved in the Fellows community at BGSU, contact Dr. Margaret Booth at firstname.lastname@example.org. The group welcomes new members to further the reach of its service opportunities and third goal activities. Opportunities to support the education of BGSU’s Fellows also exist. Help maintain a vibrant group of RPCVs at BGSU by donating to the Peace Corps Fellows Support Fund (302450). All donations support the academic scholarships and stipends of the Fellows.