Baruch College students and faculty alike gained insight into the world of international development thanks to a panel discussion on the Peace Corps held on March 1. The event featured a discussion with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers teaching and working in Baruch.
The event began with an introduction by moderator Teresa Liu, who volunteered in East Timor between 2003 and 2005. Now, Liu serves as Baruch’s associate director of international admissions.
Liu, who served as a health service volunteer, noted that the date of the event was chosen to commemorate Peace Corps Day, the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s signing of Executive Order 10924, which officially established the Peace Corps.
Liu and the panelists shared their reasons for joining the Peace Corps, as well as how their experiences abroad helped them prosper back home.
“Getting outside of what you’re used, getting taken out of country, culture, language, everything is the caveat. The idea is you are being shocked into growing and maturing very quickly because you are outside of your element,” said Anna D’Souza, a development economist who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal between 2000 and 2002. She currently teaches in the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs.
Other panelists elaborated on how their time as Peace Corps volunteers altered their world outlooks. Brian Kane, who currently serves as the director of Baruch’s Science and Technology Entry Program, explained that one of the draws of Peace Corps was the chance to break the monotony of his former job at a mutual fund company in Baltimore. His responsibilities, according to Kane, “literally required that [he] do the same thing every day.”
By chance, Kane’s company adopted an elementary school, giving Kane the opportunity to act as a “big brother” to a student at the school. It was partially this experience that drove Kane to pursue the Peace Corps, eventually serving as a volunteer at a credit union in Honduras between 1994 and 1996.
All the panelists agreed that their experiences in Peace Cops also made them more culturally aware. Panelist Cheryl de Jong-Lambert, who works as the director of communications in Baruch’s Office of Communications and Marketing, served as a volunteer in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa between 1990 and 1992. De Jong-Lambert noted that her experiences within Guinea-Bissau’s communal society made her more aware of her consumption when she returned to the United States.
“Consumptionism and the obsession with television and phones and all that has really helped me filter a lot of the media and filter it for my kids. We [de Jong-Lambert and her husband] live as simple a life as possible,” said de Jong-Lambert.
Over time, the Peace Corps application process has changed for the better. The application process has become more streamlined, with the applicant being notified of his or her acceptance approximately two to three months after the initial application submission. Unlike past iterations of the process, the applicant is also permitted to choose up to three programs, allowing for less of a randomized experience. All in all, the applicant can expect to travel to his or her assigned location approximately six to nine months after submitting the initial application. Despite these changes, the eight-step process remains highly competitive.