Translating global experience into U.S. leadership opportunities
St. Catherine University has named its first Paul D. Coverdell Fellows to the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL): Bjorn Betzler and Andrea Kruse. The fellowship program, launched in partnership with the Peace Corps in 2011, will give returning Peace Corps volunteers the opportunity to enrich their global experiences in the United States.
From Gambia to St. Kate’s
Bjorn Betzler prefaced his MAOL coursework with 27 months in The Gambia, West Africa, where he worked with the head of the National Agricultural Development agency, the World Food Programme and The Gambia Peace Corps.
During that time — months he describes as “the most difficult and the most rewarding” of his life — Betzler and his colleagues mobilized resources to design and launch a genetically modified seed-rice distribution campaign in response to the 2007–08 food crisis. (The project remains self-sustaining.) He also worked in a rural village miles from the capital city, Banjul, that involved collaborating with the village chief to develop a culturally appropriate method to cashew farming.
“Like most volunteers, I joined the Peace Corps to save the world,” Betzler says. But he soon realized the greater personal impact.
“I learned what it is like to survive in a country that is near the bottom of the United Nations’ list of developing countries,” he explains. “I learned that hard work and independence have their bounds, [and] that leaders can be made simply from learning from failures and still taking first steps.”
Bulgaria to St. Paul
Andrea Kruse immersed herself in Bulgarian language and culture prior to her Peace Corps service, which she completed at an orphanage and kindergarten in the small, isolated village of Dren in southwest Bulgaria.
The only English speaker there, Kruse taught beginning English and how to use computers. She also worked with Peace Corps volunteers stationed at other local locations to plan joint educational outings for the children and to work on projects throughout Bulgaria. A highpoint of her service was the creation of a summer camp to introduce the children to archaeology and their Bulgarian history.
Kruse says her Peace Corps experience has enabled her to “look at ethics and values with a different work view.” She gained not only confidence, she adds, but resiliency through her leadership experiences.
The Coverdell fellows
Peace Corps partners with more than 60 colleges and universities in the United States to offer the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program (formerly known as the Peace Corps Fellows/USA program).
This partnership offers returning Peace Corp volunteers financial support for graduate school and public service opportunities or internships in underserved communities throughout the nation. Kruse and Betzler each receive an award equivalent to approximately $10,500, including a tuition grant and research assistantship.
Learn more about St. Catherine University’s MAOL-Paul D. Coverdell Fellows program.
Excerpted and republished with permission from the winter 2012 issue of Leading Edge, the MAOL newsletter.