Sixty years of public good with the Peace Corps
Bowling Green State University celebrates Peace Corps Week
When it comes to demonstrating a commitment to public service, one of Bowling Green State University's strongest partnerships is with the Peace Corps, which has been sending volunteers around the globe since its creation by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.
BGSU will celebrate “60 Years of Service” during Peace Corps Week, Feb. 28-March 6, highlighting the relationship between the two with a virtual reunion of volunteers.
Organized by Dr. Margaret Zoller Booth, professor in the School of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Policy, and Evan Snapp, a Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellow graduate assistant and a Master of Public Administration student, the highlight of BGSU’s celebration will be a virtual gathering at 6 p.m. March 3 of University alumni who have participated in the Peace Corps. The event is open to all.
“We really want to celebrate this incredible relationship and collaboration between the University and the Peace Corps,” Booth said. “We have had nearly 100 fellows come to BGSU since 2008, and we want to hear how those two experiences have influenced their lives.
“This is going to be a great chance to reflect on 60 years of the Peace Corps and talk about our own experiences as both students and returned volunteers."
A global partnership
Booth said that the connection between BGSU and the Peace Corps is rare among universities. While the Peace Corps has always recruited at the University, it was in 2008 that the bond was strengthened with the first Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellows Program for returned volunteers in the Master of Arts in Cross-cultural and International Education (MACIE) program.
The Coverdell program provides financial support for graduate education to help translate the experiences of returned volunteers into successful careers. In the years since the program was established, the University has joined a handful of other universities by expanding the Coverdell fellowships to all master’s and doctoral degrees offered on campus.
In addition to the graduate opportunities, BGSU has the Peace Corps Prep program for undergraduates to help them think more broadly about the world as they consider the Peace Corps or other international field work.
“Service is the cornerstone of the Peace Corps,” she said. “At BGSU, there is a continuation of that thread with the University’s mission. Our graduate students carry on that calling through internships in underserved communities and frequently throughout their careers, as well.”
The impact of COVID-19
Snapp, an educational Peace Corps volunteer in Grenada until March 2020, pointed out the significance of programs like BGSU’s for returning volunteers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All of the volunteers were evacuated, and the program was upended last year,” Snapp said. “Everyone was uprooted from their jobs and their homes. All of that really showed the importance of the support system for volunteers after their service.”
Booth, who volunteered with the Peace Corps in Kenya, pointed out that the Peace Corps does an excellent job of preparing members to work abroad with intensive language and cultural programs, but that reintegrating upon return can be difficult for some. She said when she returned to graduate school, it was connecting with other returned volunteers that built her support system.
“Even in the best of times, Peace Corps volunteers need support when they return,” she said. “Sometimes, coming home can be harder than going because you’ve been very well prepared for that part of your journey. When you come back, you expect everything to be the same. But it isn’t, because you’ve changed and had so many new experiences.
“I think that one of the interesting topics during the March 3 event will be bringing those experiences together and discussing how they impact past, current and future service.”
The Peace Corps is also sponsoring a number of virtual events to celebrate its 60th anniversary, including “Careers in Service,” “The Multigenerational Impact of Peace Corps,” and a “Peace Corps Through the Ages Story Slam.”