Students Serve the City, Then the World
BU gets high marks for sending grads to the Peace Corps
Kristine Bucchianeri (CAS’05) works halfway around the world, creating sustainable programs to protect a coastal environment threatened by overfishing. It’s not exactly a typical job for a Boston University graduate, but working in the Philippines for the Peace Corps was the natural culmination of Bucchianeri’s experience at BU, where she earned a degree in biology and received a Community Service Award for her extensive volunteer work.
“As cheesy as it sounds,” she says, “I realized how easy it was for me to make a difference in people’s lives in Boston, which motivated me to want to help in another area of the world.”
Bucchianeri is one of a growing number of graduates who have joined the Peace Corps. In January, BU was ranked 10th among the top 25 large colleges and universities sending college graduates to the Peace Corps, and 5th for graduate students. Currently 68 BU alums serve around the world. In a letter to BU President Robert Brown, Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter wrote, “Through its volunteers, the Peace Corps presents the face of America to people around the world. Our success is directly attributable to the outstanding support we receive from Boston University.”
For Leilani Johnson (SPH’04), the Peace Corps was destiny. She grew up hearing her father’s stories about his time volunteering in India with the Peace Corps. As an undergraduate at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., Johnson got a taste for volunteering abroad when she worked on health issues with Estonian refugees in Sweden. Then she discovered the Master’s International Program at BU’s School of Public Health, which allows students to earn credit for Peace Corps service, and it seemed like a perfect fit.
The challenging program requires that students be accepted independently into both the Master of Public Health program and the Peace Corps. Students complete up to 43 credits of course work and earn their final 5 credits in the Peace Corps. Those credits are set up as a directed study, “bringing the academic rigor of their public health training to bear on their current professional experience,” says program director Joe Anzalone.
Their SPH experience is an invaluable preparation for the challenges abroad, participants say. Courtney Briar (SPH’07), who is volunteering in the Dominican Republic, notes in her blog, “After reading our objectives, I realized the health program that the [Peace Corps] offers will be an excellent opportunity for me to apply almost everything I have learned over the past year with the M.P.H.”
In the Peace Corps, Bucchianeri writes from the Philippines, “we work at the grassroots level to help create positive change in our communities. This was similar to some of the work I did at BU, but added the challenge and adventure of being halfway around the world in a different language!”