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“The Peace Corps had always been something I knew about,” says Mckenzie Goodwin ’16, who returned in September 2018 after 27 months working on public health initiatives as a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana. But it was a St. Lawrence career fair that sealed the deal in her senior year.
Goodwin was one of 55 St. Lawrence graduates who have volunteered with the Peace Corps since 2016 and among the hundreds of Laurentians who have worked around the world since the Peace Corps was founded by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. The agency ranks its top volunteer-producing colleges and universities annually according to the size of their student bodies. In 2019, with 20 alumni currently volunteering around the world, it is no surprise that St. Lawrence took the No. 1 spot, up from No. 2 in 2018, making it the fifth consecutive year to be ranked among the top 25 small schools.
Along with Goodwin, recent volunteers Will Dana ’16 in Madagascar, Maeghan Connor ’18 in the Philippines, Catherine O’Connell ’18 in Senegal, and Harrison Feldman ’18 in Guatemala are only a few of the Laurentians who have embraced the Peace Corps partnerships with small communities to support everything from youth development and education to agriculture, health, the environment, and much more.
“St. Lawrence students are naturally curious about the world and seek ways to enhance their own understanding of it through service,” according to Ron Albertson, director of St. Lawrence University’s Career Services. “The number one ranking by the Peace Corps reflects St. Lawrence’s commitment to students’ intellectual growth, exploration, reflective leadership, and responsible global citizenship.”
For Goodwin, her Peace Corps commitment was a natural extension of her experience during St. Lawrence’s Kenya Summer Abroad Program.
“My experience in Kenya was enough to make me want to work in the public health field and focus on health equity,” says Goodwin.
“St. Lawrence gave me the tools to be able to confidently join the Peace Corps. It provided me with so many different opportunities to explore and think critically in ways I had never done before. It taught me how to build collaborative relationships with diverse groups of people and how to be open and adapt to changing environments.
“My community had its business together, and I was so lucky to learn from all the hard work they have done,” says Goodwin. “I found that my role was to be a supporter and assist in any way that they needed, which was nice because it left room for me to explore other areas of health that could use improving.”
For Goodwin, the Peace Corps has transformed the way she looks at the world. “I wish more people were able to see the world for what it is and not how we think it is,” says Goodwin who has seen firsthand the progress that is being made across many communities.
“My goal coming back to the U.S. is to use these lessons to educate my peers and hope that one day we will systematically get the world right,” she says, “so that everyone understands where each person is, where our resources need to go, and how to exchange knowledge amongst one another.”
Deborah Dudley contributed to this article.