News and updates from the Peace Corps community — across the country, around the world, and spanning generations of returned Volunteers and staff.
By Peter V. Deekle (Iran 1968–70)
Megan Ranney (pictured, Côte d’Ivoire 1998–2000), deputy dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health and professor of emergency medicine, became one of 100 newly elected members invited to join the National Academy of Medicine — one of the highest honors in health and medicine. Dr. Evelyn Newman-Phillips, Ph.D (The Gambia 1980–83) was awarded Central Connecticut State University’s (CCSU) Distinguished Service Award for the exemplary commitment, vision, and selflessness she has demonstrated to her colleagues, students, and members of the wider social community throughout her 30-year teaching career. Christopher Martin (Ghana 2008–10), nationally renowned furniture design-maker, kicked off this year’s Hyde Lecture Series — held by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Architecture — in late October with his lecture titled “Design Tangents; A Story of Exploration and Common Threads.” We share news about a newly published memoir about the Peace Corps experience of a Volunteer who served in Ethiopia during the late sixties as well as a leader in the field of emerging technology, who recently moderated a Peace Corps Thought Leaders series panel discussion on the ways Peace Corps Volunteers can help shape global development.
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In October, Megan Ranney (1998–2000) became one of 100 newly elected members invited to join the National Academy of Medicine. Recognized as one of the highest honors in health and medicine, the Academy celebrates top professionals who demonstrate outstanding achievements and commitment to service. Ranney currently serves as deputy dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health and is a professor of emergency medicine at the university’s Warren Alpert Medical School. As a dedicated advocate for innovative approaches within the public sector sector, Ranney founded the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health – a hub for creative minds at Brown who use digital solutions to address society’s most pressing health challenges. In March 2020, Ranney co-founded Get Us PPE — a nonprofit that delivered donated personal protective equipment (such as masks, gloves, and isolation gowns) to frontline workers and underserved communities during the pandemic. In response to being elected into the Academy’s 2022 class, Ranney said, “I am beyond honored by this election. The National Academy of Medicine serves as a touchstone for rigorous science and respectful scientific debate. This evidence-centered community matters immensely as we confront multiple medical and public health challenges — particularly in this moment, when science and scientific communication matter so deeply to the world.”
Cindy Mosca (1967–69) recently published Letters from A Wondrous Empire: An Epistolary Memoir, a collection of letters she wrote to her mom and aunt about her Peace Corps experience in Ethiopia. Mosca’s interests in both the Peace Corps and Ethiopia were piqued by a Volunteer who visited her high school to share his Peace Corps experience with her class, a high school friend who wrote letters to Mosca about the people and artwork seen during a visit to Ethiopia, and a 1965 National Geographic special magazine focused on highlighting Ethiopia. Shortly after graduating college, she joined the Peace Corps, serving as an education Volunteer who taught English, history, and geography to seventh through 12th graders at a school in the small town of Woldia, located in northern Ethiopia. Mosca’s experience solidified a lifelong love, appreciation, and passion for serving Ethiopian communities, which continued to inspire her pursuits well beyond the end of her two-year service. More recently, she decided to volunteer in the Peace Corps’ Virtual Service program back in February — helping Partners with Education Ethiopia develop English teacher guides as well as brainstorm ideas for interactive class instruction and student engagement with school gardens. As a retiree, she spends her free time supporting Refugee and Immigration Self-Empowerment (RISE) — which allows her to connect with refugee families in her local Indiana community — and the Selamta Family Project, which provides homes for Ethiopian orphans. During the pandemic, she began reading, editing, and writing reflections for the letters during her service and compiled them into her memoir. Driven by her lifelong commitment to teaching and humanitarian services, Mosca donates all the proceeds of her memoir to Ethiopian humanitarian relief efforts.
Dr. Evelyn Newman-Phillips, Ph.D (1980–83) was awarded Central Connecticut State University’s (CCSU) Distinguished Service Award, one of the university’s highest honors. Dr. Newman-Philips has been a CCSU faculty member since 1994 and also serves as department chair of anthropology. At the start of her career at CCSU, she joined the African Studies Committee and played a key role in the establishment of the Center for Africana Studies in 2001 — where she has taken up a few directorial roles and developed the center’s annual conference for more than 25 years. CCSU’s Distinguished Service Award recognizes members of the CCSU community who have provided exemplary service to the university over an extended period of time, and nominations are submitted by faculty, staff, students, and peers at other institutions of higher learning. “In my teaching, I try to stay open to all the ways people can learn and the ways that culture can constrain our understanding,” said Dr. Newman-Phillips. “I am also passionate about offering my students opportunities to see the world and develop intercultural competence through study abroad programs.” She has also received various awards and honors, such as the CCSU Excellence in Teaching Award, the Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring Award from CCSU’s NAACP student chapter, and the John P. Shaw Community Service Award from the NAACP New Britain Branch in Connecticut. Read how Dr. Newman-Phillips’ Peace Corps experience changed the course of her career.
Christopher Burns (1999–2001) served as moderator for the virtual discussion held during the Peace Corps’ Thought Leaders series in July. Burns is the chief digital development officer and director for technology at U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he leads technical teams focused on emerging technology. Prior to joining USAID, he served nearly 10 years with the Peace Corps as Program and Training Officer in Niger, Country Desk Officer for Central Asia, and Agroforestry Adviser in Ghana. He kicked off the virtual discussion stating how returned Volunteers can serve as powerful conduits to expand the paradigm shift digital technologies have ushered. He was joined by three RPCV technology professionals — Emily Black (Kazakhstan 2010–11), Dr. Hoang Thai Tao (Mozambique 2011–13), and Aaron Simmons (Philippines 2006–08) — who shared their perspectives on leveraging technological trends to impact socioeconomic development and shape global development. Burns wrapped up the conversation by discussing the connections between evolving technologies and the ways they can drive local solutions, voice, agency, and empowerment in the communities served by the Peace Corps. Watch the full recording of the panel discussion.
Christopher Martin (2008–10), nationally renowned furniture design-maker, kicked off this year’s Hyde Lecture Series — held by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Architecture — in late October with his lecture titled “Design Tangents; A Story of Exploration and Common Threads.” The Hyde Lecture Series is a long-standing, endowed, public program that welcomes experts in the fields of architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, and planning to spark enriching, ongoing dialogue surrounding various design disciplines. Back in 2008, Martin left his associate professor job at Iowa State University to serve with Peace Corps Ghana, and his experience have greatly influenced his research and creative endeavors ever since. Martin also received a Fulbright Fellowship in 2016 to spend five months in India working to develop a series of contemporary furniture pieces that honored the richness of India’s traditional craft culture. As founder of Christopher Martin Furniture, he produces a line of small batch furniture pieces for sale online and collaborates with traditional artisans in Ghana and India. His lecture explored his furniture design portfolio, his many sources of inspiration, his fascination with material and process, and the progression of his overall work. “Since serving in the Peace Corps…I have been interested in traditional indigenous arts and artisans and in finding ways to help them achieve sustainable livelihoods while continuing their craft traditions,” said Martin.