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Fellows in the Community

Brittany Odermann

M.A. Geography
Western Illinois University, 2004
Morocco, 1999–2000

I left for Peace Corps/Morocco just six days after I graduated from college with a bachelor's in civil engineering. Armed with my degree and an assignment as a health and sanitation educator, I set out to change the world. I soon realized I had a lot to learn about affecting people's lives and bringing about positive change. While much of my work focused on basic health issues in a rural mountain town, a bigger part of my service involved bringing community members together to organize around issues that they felt were important, and putting together a plan to get things done.

My Fellows experience helped me realize that my service in Morocco was applicable well beyond my Peace Corps service. After working for a short while as a civil engineer when I returned to the United States, I decided I wanted to switch gears and start looking at a career in community-based planning. I had a particular interest in transportation, which led me to a program at Western Illinois University (WIU).

I studied geography with an emphasis in community development at WIU. I entered the program in the fall of 2002, about two years after returning from Morocco. The WIU Fellows program is specifically designed for RPCVs and maintains a unique partnership with the Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs. That partnership allowed me to work with the Rural Transit Assistance Center to craft a plan to coordinate transit services in the town where the university was located.

In addition, the fellowship is set up so you spend one year of the two-year program serving in a rural community through Americorps. The skills I acquired while working as a health and sanitation educator in a rural Moroccan community enabled me to guide community groups in a rural Midwest town through a process of implementing a vision they created for their town.

It was truly rewarding to serve domestically and give back to a country that has given so much to me. I also forged some close relationships with other RPCVs in my program who all shared that common experience of serving their country abroad and then at home. There was a great social network outside of our studies. Almost every weekend you could find some internationally-themed party, with every Peace Corps Fellow bringing something to represent their countries of service.

Today, eight years after completing my degree, I am working as a transportation planner. I coordinate with community stakeholders and local jurisdictions to improve mobility in the Santa Barbara region.

Last updated Sep 23 2014

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