This year, three Peace Corps volunteers chose to make the Wake Forest Masters in Management program the next step to accomplishing their goals for the future.
Cara McGrath and Blair Thompson are both recipients of the Coverdell Fellowship from the Peace Corps, and Sydney Shapiro received the Dingledine Scholarship for positive social impact, a Wake Forest University scholarship that provides full tuition for students who worked in a nonprofit setting after completing their undergraduate degree.
Cara McGrath, Uganda
After studying abroad multiple times in sub-Saharan Africa while in college at the University of Oklahoma, Cara McGrath wanted to apply her degree in international security by living in another country after graduation.
“I wanted to get outside of my comfort zone and gain an intimate understanding of how people outside of the United States live their lives,” McGrath said. “Peace Corps taught me resilience, grit, flexibility, and determination. These skills have impacted how I view the world, build relationships, and live and work.”
McGrath worked as a literacy specialist in northern Uganda, with most of her work centered around literacy and youth empowerment projects, as well as initiatives focused on gender equity, reproductive health, and sustainable farming. She managed a team of 17 Peace Corps volunteers to raise money for Books for Africa that brought over 36,000 books to the schools in the area, benefiting more than 34,000 students and teachers.
McGrath decided the Wake Forest Masters in Management program was exactly what she needed when she returned stateside. She has been able to apply the leadership skills she developed in Uganda in the rigorous course schedule.
Blair Thompson, Togo
Blair Thompson had planned on joining the Peace Corps since highschool and applied during her senior year at UNC Chapel Hill, where she studied environmental science and geography. She soon learned she was assigned to Togo, a small country located next to Ghana on the west coast of Africa.
She was able to apply her background in French as she worked alongside micro businesses like rabbit raisers and farmers. A majority of her time was spent with a “Club des Mères,” a club of mothers that met weekly to work on agricultural activities in order to raise money to send their children to school and combat income inequality.
“In Togo I gained exposure into small scale, basic business concepts like marketing and bookkeeping,” Thompson said. “Everything I learned, I learned by experience. Now I’m learning the terminology and scaling my knowledge of small businesses up to corporate America.”
Thompson found the School’s Masters in Management program to be the best fit because of the academically challenging, yet comparably short length of the program. She applied from Togo, with limited wifi, and has no regrets.
Sydney Shapiro, Zambia
After graduating from Florida State with a degree in international affairs, Sydney Shapiro spent two years of service in an education development program in southern Zambia. She taught English to students ranging in age from 14 to 23. In addition to teaching, she also worked on agriculture and health initiatives, conducting more than 24 workshops on various education, health, and agriculture topics. She also worked on long-term projects like building the first rural public school community library and planting more than 500 trees.
“When I decided to join, I felt like I would never understand the world I lived in without taking myself out of it and seeing the opposite side,” Shapiro said. “I wanted a deeper understanding of the world from a less sheltered viewpoint.”
Shapiro worked as a recruiter for the Peace Corps after her two years in Zambia, but she knew she wanted to continue her education. She decided to apply to Wake Forest when she saw that the program was geared toward students with limited business experience.
“I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into only nonprofit or strictly international work,” Shapiro said. “I wanted to have options.”
“I honestly couldn’t believe it was only 10 months,” Shapiro said. “It was an opportunity I couldn’t imagine passing up. In Zambia, I learned thousands of soft skills, like communication, teamwork, and leadership. The hard skills were what I was lacking, and the Masters in Management program has given me just that in my finance, accounting, and analytics courses."
Created with images by jfeuchter - "Globe", Cara McGrath, Blair Thompson, and Sydney Shapiro