Peace Corps Soul Man
By Jonathan Pearson on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
Keynote speaker Leo Higdon told a gathering at Saturday’s Third Goal Expo in Providence that he truly believes his family shaped his values, while his education sharpened his skills. ”But the Peace Corps”, he says, “truly gave me my soul.”
From 1968 to 1970, Higdon and his wife Ann served as teachers in Malawi. Their oldest son – the first of four children – was born while they were serving. ”It is fascinating how two years can have such an impact on your life.”
That life led Higdon to the presidency of Connecticut College in New London, which has been recognized with both the Senator Paul A. Simon Award for Campus Internationalization and the President’s Honor Roll for Community Service, with Distinction. He still puts his Peace Corps experience to work in his leadership position. ”Today’s students are graduating into a global economy,” says Higdon, adding that success requires the basic Peace Corps values of learning, listening and adapting. ”These are values we try to infuse into their learning.”
“Connecticut College is globally aware and globally connected,” and Higdon stresses that this effort is achieved through a multi-dimensional approach.
All students are required to take a foreign language. With an enrollment of about 2,000 students, 100 of those undergraduates are from other countries, providing cross-cultural experiences Higdon says can never be learned in the classroom.
The same goes for the faculty. Higdon says educators at Connecticut College receive support for research and teaching abroad, adding that the school makes a concerted effort to recruit international faculty.
Along with offering internships abroad, the college is – not surprisingly – a hotbed for Peace Corps recruitment. The school has regularly ranked in the top twenty among small colleges and universities in producing Peace Corps Volunteers. Many students are aware of President Higdon’s service in Malawi, and he says he speaks to 15 – 20 students a year about Peace Corps service.
While Higdon has not yet returned to his country of service, he says a visit back to Malawi with his wife and family is on his “bucket list”.
“One of the reasons we want to go back is because the people were so friendly and hospitable to us. As much as Ann and I did, we got far more out of it.”
Follow this link to read President Higdon’s remarks at the Providence Third Goal Expo.
The fourth and final Expo for 2012 is this Saturday in Pasadena, California. Follow this link for details.