In Pursuit of Knowledge: Sociologist Studying the Impact of Peace Corps Volunteer Service
By Erica Burman on Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Several times a year, the National Peace Corps Association receives inquiries from researchers and reporters looking into topics connected to the Peace Corps, the international volunteer experience, or the work of the NPCA. One month it could be a student from Taiwan interested in the use of social media by nonprofit organizations. Another month it could be a journalist looking to tie Peace Corps recruitment numbers to the state of the economy. Or it could be someone like Meghan Kallman, an organizational sociologist working on her PhD at Brown University, who contacted us back in October.
Meghan is studying, as she describes it, “civic participation, the third sector, and development; in other words, what happens when people try to make their worlds better, and what do formal organizations have to do with that process?” She has elected to write her dissertation on the Peace Corps because she is interested in the effects of volunteering on people’s lives: how are volunteers’ biographies, identities, and politics shaped by participation? How do individual volunteers carry their Peace Corps experience with them throughout their lives and careers? How does this sort of international service experience permanently affect people?
Needless to say, it’s a topic right up the alley of the NPCA!
To answer these questions she has developed a research design combining the benefits of qualitative and quantitative approaches. “I am using field observations at three Peace Corps sites, a large survey, document analysis, and interviews with Volunteers (200 of them) and Peace Corps staff to understand how the relationship between participation, development, and idealism grows,” says Meghan.
In November she interviewed me for well over an hour, and we vowed to stay in touch. Several months later and the survey is now ready.
She would be very grateful if RPCVs would take a few moments to fill out the survey and share our community’s thoughts with her.