TCNJ President Kathryn Foster, chemistry professor Donald Hirsh and recent graduate Jasmine Miller spoke about their experiences in the Peace Corps in a Zoom presentation hosted by the organization on March 3.
The Peace Corps, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, is an agency that places volunteers into countries around the world who have requested trained individuals in areas like education, infrastructure, and health.
“In the ’70s there was a series of commercials calling the Peace Corps ‘The toughest job you’ll ever love,” says Hirsch. “I thought ‘wow,’ that sounds like something for me.”
Both President Foster and Professor Hirsch were stationed in the African nation of Eswatini, which was known as Swaziland during their time there in the 1980s. Foster spent her time in the capital city assisting with infrastructure projects. She also was involved with starting one of the first women’s magazines in the country. Hirsch worked as a secondary science and math teacher in a rural district.
Jasmine Miller, a public health major who graduated in 2018, was stationed in Ghana and worked in the health sector. During her time there she gave talks on women’s health and family planning and participated in vaccination drives for young children.
“As a Bonner scholar, I had the opportunity to go on service trips and help the community during my time in college,” she says. “My passion for service led me to apply to the Peace Corps after I graduated.”
Miller had studied abroad in Ghana as an undergrad and was happy to return with new skills and a placement from the Peace Corps after graduation from TCNJ.
All three of the speakers had different experiences during their service, but all looked back on it fondly. Foster was stationed in the capital city and worked in a government office with modern amenities. Hirsh worked in a school that was established by Catholic missionaries and taught science and math to secondary school students. Miller lived in a rural community and spent much of her time learning from and playing with neighboring children.
“The switch that flipped in my head during my service was that it’s not always about me and what I want,” Hirsh recalls. “The experience really helped me mature. You need to be open and flexible so you can enjoy this great experience.”
Students who are interested in learning more about the Peace Corps and the application process can reach out to Sarah Price, the New Jersey regional recruiter at peacecorps.hirevue.com.
— Julia Meehan ’22