Work That Matters

Students' after-Knox options include Peace Corps, KnoxCorps, public service

May 23, 2014

Many opportunities to serve other people -- such as through the Peace Corps, KnoxCorps, and careers in government -- are open to Knox College students after they graduate. That's the message delivered by several guest speakers, including a longtime member of the U.S. Foreign Service, during Knox's "Work that Matters: Engaging the World after Knox College" conference on public service.

Among the speakers were two Knox alumni, Emma Poland '12 and Kasandara "Kat" Sullivan ‘13, who serve in KnoxCorps, the innovative civic engagement program that brings together recent Knox graduates, current students, and the Galesburg Community Foundation.

Members of KnoxCorps collaborate with local non-profit organizations to support important initiatives. For example, Sullivan is HumanLinks Foundation Fellow at the Sustainable Business Center, where she works to develop greater interest in a local food hub and offers classes in sustainability.

"Sustainability is something I'm passionate about," Sullivan said. "I wanted to give something of myself to sustainability and to give back to Knox."

Poland is KnoxCorps' Knox County Health Department Fellow, and her work involves helping low-income clients obtain prescription drugs. Poland and Sullivan are heading to graduate school next year.

In another presentation at the April 10 conference, returned Peace Corps volunteers and Knox alumni Mike Dooley '09, who served in Paraguay, and Katie Walker '11, who served in Panama, shared their experiences. (Photo above, Walker with Panamanians; below, Dooley shows students the blog he kept during his Peace Corps service.)

Both said the most important part of their Peace Corps service involved building relationships with people in their communities. They also agreed that their Knox experiences of taking foreign language courses and studying abroad greatly prepared them for the Peace Corps.Mike Dooley references his Peace Corps blog

Presenters said that the Peace Corps now allows applicants to select in which region they would like to serve, and that volunteers may serve alongside their best friend or same-sex partner even if they are not married to each other.

Knox offers the highly regarded Peace Corps Preparatory program, which features a curriculum designed to prepare students to serve in the Peace Corps or in international service.

Another presentation at the conference featured Ian Kelly, a longtime member of the U.S. Foreign Service, and Carl Hawkinson, who spent much of his career serving in elective office in Illinois.

"It's been a real privilege to be able to represent our country overseas," said Kelly, whose work has included overseas assignments in Russia and the former Yugoslavia. He is currently U.S. State Department Diplomat in Residence at the University of Illinois-Chicago. While at Knox, Kelly also met with a small group of students to discuss the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine.

Kelly said the foreign service is dramatically different than it was when he first joined more than 20 years ago. Now, he said, the best candidates for foreign service are "expeditionary" people who are teamwork-oriented and mission-oriented. Experience with organizations such as the Peace Corps and Teach for America is especially helpful, Kelly said.

Knox senior Brittanie Corner, who has been accepted to serve next year in the education-focused City Year Chicago program, said that was good to hear. She is considering a career in public service.