As Commencement 2016 approaches, Elizabeth C. Lunderman ’16 and Thomas A. Ramage ’16 prepare for their two-year commitments to the Peace Corps, the preeminent international service organization of the U.S. Both Lunderman and Ramage will serve as teachers, in Tanzania and China respectively. They join William Smith alumnae Eliss Mañon ’14 and Tess M. O’Leary ’14, who will also begin Peace Corps service this year, as youth development volunteers. Mañon will be in Peru and O’Leary will head to the Dominican Republic.
“Hobart and William Smith are proud that these four accomplished members of our community now number among the many impressive, service-minded graduates who have joined the Peace Corps,” says President Mark D. Gearan, who served as director of the Peace Corps from 1995 to 1999. “The Colleges’ commitment to civic duty is evident in their decisions to serve.”
In Tanzania, Lunderman will put into practice her background as a double major in biology and environmental studies, teaching science to secondary students.
Having worked with middle and high school students at a summer camp, where she was also a horse wrangler, Lunderman recalls the joys of this “first hands-on, day-after-day experience working with kids and conveying this energy of what I studied. I’m really excited to see what it’s like to be in a Tanzanian classroom and teach students there.”
Entering HWS, Lunderman planned to become a doctor, inspired by the way her father — a colonel in the U.S. Air Force — spoke about his flight surgeon colleagues.
“Then, going abroad to Australia, I got the travel bug,” she explains. “I thought about going to nursing school, I talked to a military recruiter, I went abroad again to Vietnam, where I was sitting in a café, thinking about what I wanted to do and realized: I love traveling and I love people, I want to help people — why am I not applying to the Peace Corps?”
Ramage, who will teach English to secondary students in rural China, developed an interest in public service while volunteering with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance during high school.
“I liked the feeling of helping people, and I felt the Peace Corps would give me that same sort of gratification,” he explains. “My older sister’s service in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps gave me something to aspire to as well.”
But it was his junior year abroad in South Korea that piqued his interest in “being immersed in a new language and culture, and connecting with people from different backgrounds.”
Supported by a grant from the Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education, Ramage later interned in South Korea with Standard Chartered Bank, an experience, he says, that “gave me the bulk of the professional experience needed to work with people from another culture who speak different languages, something I most certainly will have to do as an English language instructor at a Chinese university.”
In addition to teaching English, Ramage says he looks forward to “the greater mission of opening up a dialogue between people from the United States and China. In our globalized age it becomes more important that we view ourselves not just as citizens of a single country, but citizens of the world — and I think the Peace Corps helps fulfill that goal.”
Established in 1961, the Peace Corps dispatches thousands of volunteers abroad each year to serve at the grassroots level and develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth development. After completing the highly selective and prestigious program, Peace Corps alums often become leaders in their chosen fields, frequently related to public service and international affairs.