Fellows in the Community
M.A. International Affairs
Marquette University, 2011
I went to Cameroon in 2006 with the Peace Corps to work on small enterprise development. I spent two years in a village, Tokombéré, working with microfinance institutions—one-room cement buildings without electricity, run by villagers who were often illiterate—and teaching business classes to women.
I enjoyed this grassroots introduction to development work so much that I decided to continue with a third-year assignment with the United Nations Development Programme to gain experience with development on a larger scale. I worked from 2008 to 2009 as the regional office manager for the Grassroots Poverty Reduction Sub-Programme in Garoua, Cameroon. I, along with my staff, supervised 64 groups and oversaw their income-generating activities. These groups were mainly composed of women doing agricultural, animal-raising, and food-transformation activities.
After my Peace Corps service, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in international development, but first I wanted to process my experience in an academic setting. I researched the various Peace Corps Fellows programs and found that Marquette University in Milwaukee offers an incredible program, Trinity Fellows, for those who have done full-time volunteer service. The program is intended for committed individuals who care about the well-being of others, about issues of social and economic justice, and those who wish to acquire experience in the urban nonprofit sector while studying toward a master's degree.
I was raised in San Diego and earned my bachelor's degree at the University of California at Berkeley. After three years near the equator I was hesitant about living in cold weather. However, I survived two real winters in Wisconsin and have never appreciated the summer more than I do now! My academic program in international affairs gave me the opportunity to read and discuss theories about many of the world's problems that I had observed during my Peace Corps service.
Perhaps as important as the academics, I learned a lot from my internship placement. I served as the public relations and advocacy coordinator at a local nonprofit, Meta House, for the first year, and as their volunteer and in-kind gifts coordinator during my second year. Meta House helps women struggling with drug and alcohol addiction reclaim their lives and rebuild their families. Similar to the Peace Corps, interacting with the individuals I was serving was the best part of the job. At Meta House, women cope with their past trauma while learning parenting and other life skills, and they work hard to achieve their potential to be great mothers and to break the generational cycle of addiction.
Although working while in school can be difficult to balance, it was a wonderful experience for me. I came to school only six weeks after close of service, and the instant community I found with the other Trinity fellows made my readjustment so much easier. The lifelong friends I have made among the Trinity Fellows (who are RPCVs, Americorps alums, or served with other full-time volunteer organizations) are grounded in our common concern for social and economic justice.
After graduating in May 2011, I found a job doing humanitarian work abroad for an international ngo and have been in Benin and Liberia so far. I hope to continue working to improve economic opportunities for women in developing countries, leading to better outcomes for their entire families.
Last updated Oct 30 2014
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the Paul D. Coverdell
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