When he was a student at the University of Louisville, Ben Bowman worked alongside professors and graduate students in a biology lab. Looking back years later, he says the experience not only taught him about science, but also put him on a path toward making a difference as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
“I spent a lot of time trying to come up with a project to hopefully publish one day. From this I developed a much different way of thinking about problems and how to go about solving them,” Bowman, a rural aquaculture promotion volunteer in Zambia, said. “Now when I face challenges, Peace Corps has allowed me to develop my own ways of going about finding a solution.”
Bowman, who graduated from the University of Louisville in 2011 with a double major in biology and psychology, is one of 12 UofL alums currently serving overseas as a Peace Corps Volunteer. More than 204 alums have served since the agency was created in 1961, and this year has seen a steep increase in applications and student interest from the school.
“University of Louisville is pushing students to think about their future careers, not just future jobs,” said Laura Fonseca, Peace Corps’ Kentucky-based recruiter who works with applicants from UofL. “I have had the opportunity to work with many Cardinals who understand that Peace Corps aligns well with their long-term goals and is not only an opportunity to serve others, but also to launch themselves into exciting and rewarding careers.”
Since the fall, some 17 University of Louisville alums have applied to Peace Corps, been interviewed, and were recommended for service. At midyear, the school was well above its five-year average for service nominations.
In Zambia, Bowman, 25, teaches members of his community the benefits on managing fish ponds, rather than fishing from rivers and lakes. UofL alums such as Bowman find that as they help others, their two-year Peace Corps service has an impact on their own lives as well, as volunteers become global citizens with new perspectives on the world.
“I’ve always wanted to travel and see not just tourist hotspots, but real parts of the world,” Bowman said. “Peace Corps allows me to learn a new language and live in an African village without electricity, running water, or plumbing. I’m forced to be non-materialistic, and focus on what really matters, like relationships with friends, work I’m passionate about, and life that is hard but simple.”
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Nicholas Tenorio also illustrates how a UofL education followed by Peace Corps service can help a globally-minded individual focus his career and educational goals. Tenorio, of Georgetown, Ky., graduated from UofL with a master’s in Sport Administration in August 2006. He says his liberal arts education exposed him to new ideas and people, which motivated him to undertake a challenge.
“My interest in Peace Corps was inspired by a broad interest in other cultures and a rejection of the idea that an energetic, idealistic, young graduate should begin his career stuck behind a desk,” he said.
Tenorio served in Uganda from 2008 to 2010 as a community economic development volunteer, designing and implementing youth sports programs. He also later served a 6-month Peace Corps Response assignment in Jamaica and helped create a grassroots soccer program for children at a local primary school.
Tenorio, now a Navy photographer/journalist pursuing a graduate program for community economic development, hopes to work in international development with an NGO or federal agency after he completes his enlistment.
“The two most important ways my Peace Corps experience broadened my perspective were by providing a much deeper understanding of culture, and by giving me the context I needed to really further my education,” he said.
Bowman and Tenorio want their experiences to inspire other UofL alums to take the first step toward making a difference in the world and apply for Peace Corps service at www.peacecorps.gov/apply.
Fonseca, a returned volunteer who served in Ukraine, will share her experience and answer questions at an on-campus information session Thursday, April 4 from 5-6 p.m. at Houchens Building, Career Center, Room LL03.
About the Peace Corps: Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 210,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 8,073 volunteers are working with local communities in 76 host countries in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth in development. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit www.peacecorps.gov for more information, and read about the work and experiences of currently serving Midwestern volunteers at https://midwestpcvs.wordpress.com/.