Liz Wanucha sits at Kaladi Brothers coffee house sipping her fair trade coffee, a fitting drink
for a Peace Corps volunteer. She is surrounded by articles that she is using to write
her upcoming term paper. In her second year at the Josef Korbel School, Wanucha is
a Master’s International student. She will complete her Master’s in International Administration before heading off to serve in the Peace Corps for two years.
Just last week, she got some good news. Wanucha was finally notified of her placement
as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Specialist in Armenia after a yearlong application
process. She heads off in spring 2012. With an interest in Eastern Europe and Central
Asia, Armenia sits right at the crux of her research goals.
“I’m interested in looking at the Western institution influences in Armenia, particularly
on the efforts of democratization,” she said. Even before she heads off to the Peace
Corps she will be working with Dr. Rachel Epstein on a research project along those lines.
Being able to study beforehand has given Wanucha skills that she can use in the field.
She credits the skills based classes like Nonprofit Management as a huge help in her placement.
“Peace Corps likes the MI Students because they know what kind of skills they are
coming in with. You can be an NGO Specialist, maybe more so than someone coming straight
out of undergrad,” she said. She originally applied to the full 90-credit hour MA
program at Korbel, but at orientation decided she wanted to add the Peace Corps in
to her academic goals. The flexibility of the program, she said, allowed her to cherry
pick her concentrations and adding in the Peace Corps gets her the international experience
“All the puzzle pieces are coming together,” said Wanucha. She is most excited to
learn a new language and engage in the culture, though finally knowing her placement
brings up a whole host of questions. She wonders if she will be able to keep in touch
with people, or look for jobs for when she returns. Having access to so many returned
volunteers, she said, has helped mitigate any fears.
The Peace Corps community at the Josef Korbel School supports MI students during their
time in school and then as volunteers heading out to their posts. Sending Christmas
packages, and keeping in touch are just some of the ways Korbel volunteers stay connected.
Return Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) also organize events to fundraise for current
MI projects out in the field, including a photography silent auction this quarter
that even got the administration involved. Korbel Dean Christopher Hill, a former ambassador and Peace Corps volunteer, donated a fun photo of him on a motorcycle
from his time serving in Cameroon.
Wanucha said she’s grateful for the community that has helped her prepare for service.
The Peace Corps presence on campus is prominent, including the Fellows Program, which allows RPCVs to accelerate their degrees. “I feel better to find out, and now the question is whether it is going to be what
I expected it to be,” she said. Having waited for her placement a while, Wanucha said
she now feels like everything is happening so fast.
“This will be a test run for where I see myself in the future,” she said. She ultimately
hopes to stay in Eastern Europe and work in the non-profit sector.
- Sarah Crozier, MA Candidate, International Development