Fellows in the Community
Western Illinois University, 2004
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 Oct 21 2014
Coverdell Fellows Program Partnerships
the Paul D. Coverdell
Contact the Coverdell Fellows Program manager at:
1111 20th Street NW
Washington, DC 20526
Phone: 855.855.1961 ext. 1440
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