The new Peace Corps slogan is “Life is calling, how far are you willing to go.” Two Illinois State University alumni, Dan Duffy ’99, MS ’02, and Janet Deutsch, MS ’04 were willing to go halfway around the world as part of the Peace Corps.
Duffy worked as a CBEMP (capacity for building environmental management in the Pacific) volunteer in the Solomon Islands, located near Australia, where he managed a non-profit forest management trust. He worked with rural individuals on the Island Province of Santa Isabel, in small income generation and economic development issues, monitoring and marketing timber cuttings, and acted as liaison to international organizations including the UN Development Program, South Pacific Regional Environmental Program and the European Union.
“I joined the Peace Corps to help people directly, and to give to others what I have learned and been blessed with as an American,” Duffy said. “The Corps is an opportunity to see and experience what many Americans never will. Living and working in another culture proved to be a life-changing experience for me.”
Deutsch was in Kyrgyzstan, located in Central Asia, in Tash-Dobo, a village of about 8,000 people. She worked as an English teacher for gifted students from poor families and helped set up the Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan’s Gender and Development Program, which addressed women’s issues through networking and community organizing.
“From the time I was a little girl, I wanted to be in the Peace Corps,” Deutsch said. “They used to play the ‘toughest job you’ll ever love’ commercials on television, and that sold me. The Peace Corps seemed a good match for me, and it was.”
Duffy and Deutsch both returned to the U.S. and came to Illinois State, where they pursued their master’s degrees through the Peace Corps Fellows/USA Program at the Adlai E. Stevenson II Center for Community and Economic Development. The Stevenson Center, named for Bloomington-Normal native, Illinois governor and presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson II, also offers the Applied Community & Economic Development Fellows Program and the Peace Corps Master’s International Program for graduate study. The Center builds on Stevenson’s spirit of public service by placing graduate student interns in communities to help them reach their development goals. The Center was the first in the nation to focus on community and economic development, graduating more than 77 students from the three programs.
“Highly gifted students like Dan and Janet come to Illinois State University for the programs offered through the Stevenson Center,” said Center Director Frank Beck. “While with us, these students provide service to communities in need and, in so doing, further their own education and professional development. I love this program and its outstanding students.”
The Peace Corps Fellows/USA Program helps rural and urban communities across the U.S. with community and economic development needs and enhances the skills of returned Peace Corps volunteers. More than 44 Peace Corps Fellows at Illinois State have been using the skills they learned overseas in the classroom and at placement sites since the program began in 1994.
In Deutsch’s case, she worked with the Town of Normal on the downtown redevelopment project during the planning and early implementation phase. She surveyed downtown businesses for input and concerns. Deutsch is currently a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Dept. of State serving in Lagos, Nigeria, with her next posting to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. “My education and service gave me knowledge and experience to draw from in my work with the Department of State,” Deutsch said. “If someone is interested in the focus of the Stevenson Center programs, I doubt they could find better professors, courses, colleagues and challenges.”
Duffy worked as a village administrator in Dwight on economic development issues ranging from downtown redevelopment to business attraction. He was promoted to director of Economic Development for the village after his internship and currently is president of the Grundy Economic Development Council of Grundy County, for which he is involved in business attraction and retention programs to bring jobs and investment to the county.
“I often reflect and draw upon my time working overseas, hands-on with individuals at the grassroots level, with things happening at a much slower pace,” Duffy said. “Some might find it hard to believe, but I often miss the simplistic life of not having electricity and all the modern amenities we take for granted everyday. I miss the lullaby rhythms of life in the tropics, where it was quite acceptable to do nothing, but simply enjoy the natural beauty of the world and help others by giving what you could.”