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Returned Peace Corps volunteers help make KSU “Georgia’s Engaged University”

Vince Williams had never traveled abroad before spending two years in Ghana, West Africa, working in microfinance as part of the Peace Corps. Not only did he work with small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs to help them secure loans, he also coached a local high school volleyball team, taught English and helped found a nonprofit youth development agency in the village where he lived.

“The opportunity to go to Africa was one I couldn’t turn down,” Williams said. “I learned so many lessons: tolerance, patience and just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”

Those life lessons, in conjunction with Kennesaw State University’s commitment to global education, are so valuable, Williams has been given the opportunity to earn a dual master’s of business administration and a master’s of public administration for free as part of the Peace Corps Fellows program. Well, almost free.

The Returned Peace Corps Fellows receive a tuition waiver for nine credit hours per semester and a stipend of $4,000 per semester in the fall and spring only, over a two-year period. Fellows are responsible for student fees and mandatory health insurance.

In exchange, Fellows work 14 hours a week as graduate research assistants and perform community service.

“We want to further globalize the campus and the curriculum, so attracting students who have international experience makes classroom discussions more globally aware, more challenging and more informing,” said Dan Paracka, director of education abroad and associate professor of education. “The whole concept of the Peace Corps Fellows program fits perfectly with the idea of an ‘engaged university.’”

The program seeks to capitalize on the Fellows skills and areas of expertise. In Williams’ case, he has worked with Paracka on “Year of Ghana” activities.

Williams was responsible for finding a caterer for the “Day of Ghana” on campus and ensuring its authenticity. He also assisted a visiting Ghanian professor, gave a lecture, organized a student panel, which he also sat on, and helped with conference planning. He is also actively involved in helping to plan next year’s “Year of Japan” program.

Other KSU Fellows volunteer with the Maya Heritage Community Project, educating Maya about U.S. laws, health and safety, and educating faculty and students about the ancient and modern culture of the Maya.

Other opportunities for Fellows to earn their GRA status include projects working with a Romanian business university, a zambian orphanage, a Guatemalan business program and a local Junior Achievement program.

“The skills and expertise brought by the Fellows help us take our projects to a deeper level of engagement and commitment,” Paracka said. “To date, all of the Fellows have excelled and added to the global context of the classroom discussions and enhanced the projects they have been involved in.”

Since the program was instituted in fall 2007, 18 Fellows have participated in the program. Students can earn an MBA, a Master’s of Conflict Management, a Master’s of Science in Information Systems or a Master’s of Science in International Policy Management.

 

-- Jennifer Hafer