2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)
Paper No. 10-15
Presentation Time: 11:30 AM-11:45 AM

PROFESSIONALS AS PCVS: CAN PCVS OR THE PEACE CORPS OPTIMIZE BENEFITS VS. OBSTACLES?

HASTINGS, David A., 27/5 Kra Om Road #124, Pomprab, Bangkok 10100 Thailand, hastingsd@un.org.

Can one expect 2+ years in the Peace Corps (PC) to benefit one’s personal & career development; the USA’s, host country’s and global scientific community? It happens. Can the PC better support such achievements? Keep most of the formula – but improve corporate memory by fine-tuning limited exceptions to the "5-year rule," and/or use peer review from ex PCVs/staff, to add vision and/or maturity/experience to initiatives/operations.

I founded a geophysics program at a Ghanaian university. This led to post-PC work for the Ghana Geological Survey, academia, the Federal Government, and the United Nations. Flexibility of in-country PC and Ghanaian managers helped me try unusual tasks. Resourcefulness learned in a developing country taught me to build coalitions to pursue tasks otherwise unachievable in undercapitalized programs in public service. However, rapid advancement and high expectations from my time in Ghana was an obstacle with later stints in less dynamic working environments elsewhere.

The Peace Corps was a creative employment agency (finding an excellent position in a surprise location), and gave invaluable training on the host country, plus a support system of medical and other services. Less positively, the staff’s job description underrated the local situation, stating that a lack of books and equipment would hamper my work. I arrived to find more than adequate books and equipment, and a more stimulating geological community than the job description implied. Such descriptions might unnecessarily discourage applicants. Communications gaps between PC Washington and PC Uganda resulted in confusion over a possible post in Uganda. A psychological experiment performed on me during my training could have irritated local sensitivities and damaged the PC’s local reputation. These and other glitches that I have heard about might be reduced by refining the PC’s “5-year rule” to foster some increased internal corporate memory, and/or institution of limited peer review by former PCVs/staff of PC vision/plans/operations.

Thoughts for prospective PCVs: (1) Don’t take the glitches to heart; the staff isn’t much more experienced in the system than you are! (2) Read the State Department “Country Study” for your host country. I wish that one had been provided to me immediately after my selection to serve in my particular host country.

2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)
Session No. 10
Geologists in the U.S. Peace Corps: The Contribution of Peace Corps Geologists to International Development and the Contribution of the Peace Corps Experience to the Development of the Geosciences in America
Washington State Convention and Trade Center: 400
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Sunday, November 2, 2003

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 35, No. 6, September 2003, p. 40

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