Celebrating 58 years as an organization this year, the Peace Corps hosted a variety of events on campus at CSULB throughout 2019.
On the evening of March 5th in the University Student Union, more than ten returned Peace Corps volunteers spoke before an audience of prospective future volunteers, where they shared how 27 months of service abroad shaped their skill sets and careers as professionals. These returned volunteers, who served at various points throughout the Peace Corps long history, are now working as engineers, CEO’s, government employees, teachers, university administrators, social workers, and more. The event provided a unique opportunity for attendees to learn what Peace Corps service is truly like, and how the experience can connect with current CSULB students’ fields of study.
Speakers included CSULB Peace Corps Recruiter Jessica Wilson, who served in China in 2013-15; Alfred Fung, who served in China and Paula before becoming CEO of the gaming company fun-gi; Catherine Mueller, who served in Guinea and is now employed at the Department of Homeland Security; Devon Patrick Murphy, who taught math and physics in Uganda and now works with the U.S. Air Force’s Space Command and Operations; and Mary Bowes, who served in Guatemala in 1985-87 and has taught in the L.A. Unified School district for nearly 30 years.
Other Peace Corps veterans in attendance included Anthony Kingsley (Armenia, Kazakhstan, Philippines), Cheetah Chin (Mongolia), Chewy Liong (Chad), Christina Decorse (Macedonia), David Lieberman (Philippines), Derek Emmons (Nepal), Hila Raen (Fiji), Jolene McCall (Niger), Karen Jimenez (Gabon), Lesley Farmer (Tunisia), Melissa Goldman (Nepal), Natalie Smerkanich (Palau), Rashid Ocheltree (Morocco, Oman), and Terri Elders (Belize).
The following month, the CSULB Peace Corps office hosted a workshop entitled International Development: Converting Your Major into a Global Career at the Career Development Center on April 23. The event focused on programs of study that experience a lack of international development, despite a high critical need for related technical skill sets in engineering, health sciences, and business, among other areas.
The panel of experts featured Chris Brown, Strategic Mission Advisor & Client Advocate for IBM Safer Planet Solutions; Alfred Nakatsuma, Development Diplomat in Residence at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); Heidi Wiersma, Project Manager for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and former Peace Corps volunteer (Rwanda).
The discussion, moderated by Matthew Burditt of the CSULB International Studies Student Association, included stories from the panelists on how their education and practical skills were applied to underserved international locations; as well as which similar opportunities abroad are available for students in the audience to pursue in the near future.
Then, on May 11, the next generation of Peace Corps volunteers received a fond farewell from friends, family, and CSULB well-wishers at the University Student Union. About 30 CSULB students spoke with the volunteers about their upcoming experiences and learned about the variety of Peace Corps options available to them.