By Hunter Kulik
Majoring in Law, Societies & Justice (LSJ) can send graduates in many compelling and even unexpected directions. For these recent alumni (2018), it sent them overseas working and volunteering with the Peace Corps.
Although these LSJ graduates had many reasons for joining the Peace Corps, an organization currently employing over 7,000 volunteers across over 60 countries, it was their studies in LSJ that led to their interest in this post graduate option.
Brooks Strawn teaches at a small elementary school in a rural community in South Africa,. Her interest in the Peace Corps traces back to her work at the Washington Correctional Center for Women (WCCW), where she participated in the Experience of Incarceration course. During her time there, Strawn worked to connect incarcerated mothers with their children by audio recording the mothers reading books aloud for the children. “Seeing how little effort from my side made such a big difference for these mothers made me think about other opportunities for service,” Strawn says. Strawn’s experience at the WCCW inspired her to apply to the Peace Corps where, in addition to teaching, she now leads a club educating young girls about sexual and developmental health. According to Strawn, this has been one of the most significant experiences she’s had while in service. “The look on some girls’ faces when they learn something that is vital to their future and personal health, that they may not have ever learned, is so rewarding!”
Ari Cooper decided to join the Peace Corps in Albania because of his interests in Eastern Europe; it also helped that a Peace Corps recruiter had inspired him during a LSJ 200 class visit. Cooper had always been interested in the LSJ curriculum, but it was the emphasis on the ability of local government and civil society to create change that drove him to apply to the Peace Corps. As an Organizational Development volunteer in the small town of Gramsh, Cooper works on an array of projects ranging from grant-writing, to planning community events and tutoring English. For the future, he says, “I want to work on more projects that benefit underprivileged groups like unemployed youth and the Roma and Egyptian community.”
When the director at her LSJ internship site introduced her to the idea of working abroad, Danica Person started thinking about the Peace Corps. “LSJ really made me more attracted to grassroots development groups like the Peace Corps, and it emphasized the need for long term engagement for a better world.” Upon graduation, Danica joined the Peace Corps in Mongolia as an English teacher. When describing how LSJ prepared her for service, she says, “By examining a lot of the issues in the United States and discussing different strategies and problem solving, LSJ equipped me with a lot of the creative and critical thinking skills that I use every day in my Peace Corps service.” Person works to inculcate reading and writing skills in the Mongolian education system. She finds ways to work with both teachers and students to make the learning environment more enjoyable.
Reflecting upon their own journeys from LSJ to where they are now, Strawn, Cooper, and Person each gave their own advice to LSJ students. “The Peace Corps allows you to take all the ideas, concepts, and practices you learned in LSJ classes and apply them to real world settings,” says Cooper.
While they agreed that LSJ provides a framework that can be applied to the Peace Corps, they warn that the work isn’t for everyone. “I would recommend the Peace Corps to people who are looking for a challenge, of their physical, mental, and emotional capacity,” Strawn advises.
Overall, Strawn, Cooper, and Person all encouraged rising LSJ students to take advantage of opportunities—big and small—that can help them grow and learn. Person recommends, “that even if the Peace Corps is not right for a student, that they get out into the field on an international level or even volunteer in their hometown, which can be a lot of work but also has a lot of reward.”
Strawn concludes, “LSJ is an invaluable source, so use it!”