From Recruiter to Director
By Jonathan Pearson on Thursday, October 14th, 2010
As he began his address at the closing plenary of the University of Michigan’s National Symposium on the Future of International Service, Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams (Dominican Republic 67-70) noted that he served for a period as a Peace Corps recruiter in the region and “signed up a lot of RPCVs” at the university.
As the university celebrates its role in Peace Corps history – which includes the placement of more than 2,400 volunteers since 1961 - Williams told an audience of students, international service supporters and many RPCVs and former staff that “the dream that was born here in Michigan lives on.”
Director Williams cited three key reasons why he believes Peace Corps’ future is as promising as ever. One relates to an effort to expand partnerships with government and non-governmental organizations (“Our commitment to partnerships says the U.S. believes in human solidarity”). Second is the quality of individuals applying to be volunteers (“Our Peace Corps volunteers give shape and meaning to the word ‘America’…they are our best grassroots ambassadors”). Third is the opportunity the program provides to thousands of American citizens (“Peace Corps provides thousands with a life-defining leadership experience…(it) was a door to the rest of my life”).
The Director says not a month goes by when he doesn’t meet with officials from other countries seeking Peace Corps volunteers or an expansion of Peace Corps programs. “We are growing the Peace Corps…we have a blueprint for growth.” During a question and answer session he outlined some of the current goals for the agency, including the hope to expand into 2 – 3 additional countries per year, an increase in the Masters International program from 61 to 81 colleges and universities, and a hope to double or triple the number of Peace Corps Response volunteers.
As the National Peace Corps Association and other supporters of the Service World initiative begin to promote expanded international service opportunities in a variety of forms – including a doubling of Peace Corps volunteers – Williams told the audience he doesn’t view other international volunteer sending organizations as competitors for volunteers or resources. “We need to grow the pie. I welcome this growth of (overseas volunteer) opportunities.”