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Returned Peace Corps volunteers ready for grad school

Carlson with Peace Corps logo

Incoming Peace Corps Fellow in sociology Erik Carlson.

The Stevenson Center’s newest Peace Corps Fellows are arriving on campus. These students will pursue master’s degrees in anthropology, applied economics, kinesiology and recreation, political science, or sociology, with an emphasis on community and economic development. Two of the incoming Peace Corps Fellows bring unique experiences to Illinois State.

“I chose to attend the Stevenson Center at ISU because of the large focus on community-based learning. This is ideal for my learning style, and I also liked the collaborative nature of the program.”—Erik Carlson

A new Fellow in sociology, Erik Carlson, double majored in sociology and German at Beloit College in Wisconsin in 2015. He finds sociology to be an extremely interesting way to see the world through a different lens, as well as a discipline that can lead to effective change. After completing his bachelor’s degree, Carlson worked as an English as a second language teacher, volunteer coordinator, and youth mentor for the Heartland Alliance in Chicago.

In March 2017 he left the U.S. behind to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania. His primary role was as an English teacher at a foreign language high school. He has also worked on a national model United Nations project, tutored a wide range of students, and lead many English language classes for adults, among other projects.

Carlson decided to pursue a graduate degree to further his professional and personal goals. “I chose to attend the Stevenson Center at ISU because of the large focus on community-based learning. This is ideal for my learning style, and I also liked the collaborative nature of the program,” he said. He has a graduate assistantship in the Sociology and Anthropology Department. Carlson enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and being with friends in his free time.

A new Fellow in political science, Kendra Shaw, earned her bachelor’s degree with honors in international relations and Spanish from the University of Indianapolis in 2017. When she first arrived there, she was unsure of what she wanted to study but knew she had a passion for helping people, learning languages, and experiencing new cultures. After taking an introduction to international relations course her first year, she was hooked, and that class lead to a college career filled with research papers, travel experiences, and internships.

Shaw with lake

Incoming Peace Corps Fellow in political science Kendra Shaw.

After receiving her B.A. and knowing she loved working hands-on with communities, Shaw became a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in the mountains of San Lucas, Nicaragua. She spent most of her time co-planning and co-teaching English with three Nicaraguan counterparts in secondary schools. Together, they promoted student-centered learning through participatory activities. Shaw also had the opportunity to co-facilitate an intensive adult English class and to bring teachers together to share best practices.

Unfortunately, Shaw’s service finished sooner than planned. “Even though my service ended differently than I had imagined, I am continuously proud and thankful that my counterparts continue to enthusiastically teach English in both the schools and communities of Nicaragua,” she noted. Since returning to the U.S., Shaw has taken some paralegal classes to learn more about immigration and international law.

Through the Peace Corps Fellows program, Shaw seeks to continue navigating and exploring ways to bridge the gaps among people, communities, and cultures. Shaw hopes to establish a meaningful support network with her colleagues. “Essentially, I hope to better myself in order to more effectively help others,” she said. Arranged by the Stevenson Center, her graduate assistantship is with Chestnut Health Systems.

“If I ever have a free moment, I am most likely curled up in my rocking chair with a blanket, a mug of hot tea, and either a book or a cross-stitch project. I basically have an inner grandma! I also enjoy hiking and spending time outdoors and/or with friends and family,” Shaw added with a smile.

The Stevenson Center offers a similar Fellows program for those who have served with AmeriCorps or other public sector organizations, as well as a Peace Corps Prep program for undergraduate students.

Megan Birk is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.

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