Lubin, Social Impact, and the Peace Corps
Alumna Cristina Nolasco ’18 is putting her Lubin degree to great use—this summer, she’ll travel to Zambia to begin a 27-month tenure as a member of the Peace Corps. Her mentor, Professor Imran Chowdhury, has been instrumental in helping her make an impact on a global stage.
While Lubin graduates often go on to great success in financial boardrooms, a Lubin education also prepares students to make world-changing social impact. This dichotomy is perfectly demonstrated by recent graduate Cristina Nolasco ’18, who will soon begin a 27-month tenure in the southern African nation of Zambia as a member of the Peace Corps.
Nolasco, whose parents both immigrated to the United States—her mother immigrated from Honduras, and her father, from Mexico—had long been interested in pursuing a career in international relations. Growing up, she became interested in learning and immersing herself in different cultures, and traveled to several Latin American countries, expanding her understanding of the Spanish language and engaging with individuals from many different backgrounds. In addition to Spanish, Nolasco has also developed proficiency in Portuguese, Italian, and French.
"Being able to travel to different countries and building bridges with people through each experience has sparked curiosity in me as to why people have certain ideologies and behaviors," said Nolasco. "I was curious and I knew it was important for humanity to understand each other disregarding all the many things that make us different to avoid separation."
Thus, it has always been Nolasco's goal to do impactful work on the international stage. It was after taking an international management course with Lubin Associate Professor Imran Chowdhury, PhD, that she realized it was time to make her goal a reality.
“I knew that I always wanted to go into international relations,” said Nolasco. “I went to Professor Chowdury’s office and I told him I wanted to get into international relations—how can I start, where do I go, what are my resources.”
“Cristina was my student in the fall of 2017 in the international management class,” said Chowdhury. “She was really a great student, super interested in the topics. She came to my office and we chatted about different options for gaining international experience and for pursuing an international career. One of the options I discussed with Cristina was the Peace Corps. When I was in my early twenties, I lived for a year in southern Africa, in Malawi. Some of my best friends from that time were working as Peace Corps Volunteers. It's a wonderful organization.”
Established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps seeks to promote mutual understanding between the United States and other cultures by sending motivated Americans to live and work in communities abroad. Following 3 months of pre-service training, Peace Corps volunteers spend two years immersed in the culture of their host country, collaborating with local leaders to address issues in sectors such as community, economic development, education, agriculture, health care, and the environment.
While Nolasco was also exploring potential opportunities at the UN, it was the Peace Corps that increasingly seemed to be a great fit.
“Professor Chowdhury gave me a bunch of organizations, but I liked the Peace Corps. I’ve traveled to some countries where I’ve seen volunteers. I like what they do, how they work with people,” said Nolasco.
With Chowdhury's encouragement and guidance, Nolasco proceeded to apply and was accepted into their education program, through which she will be teaching English to secondary students. She is excited to make a social impact within communities in Zambia, while also challenging herself—Nolasco also had the option to go to Latin America, but given her prior travels, she decided Zambia would give her the opportunity to learn and grow in a greater capacity.
“If I’m there to teach, I don’t want to just teach. I want to learn along with the students,” said Nolasco.
Ultimately, Nolasco is interested in a long, impactful career in international relations. Professor Chowdhury is helping her establish connections along the way, beginning with a conference in just a few weeks’ time. Chowdhury has arranged for Nolasco to attend the 2019 Conference on Diversity in International Affairs in Washington, DC, a gathering that connects professionals and students from underrepresented backgrounds with career opportunities in international affairs. The conference is co-sponsored and hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank that Chowdhury is involved in.
“Hopefully that will give her a venue to explore more within the international affairs space,” said Chowdhury. “Washington is, maybe even more so than New York, the place for careers in international affairs in the United States.”
Nolasco's ultimate goal is to continue to better understand the world around her—for her next language, she is planning on learning Arabic—and hopes that continued education and curiosity will eventually lead her to an impactful position at an organization like the United Nations. At the moment, however, she is focused on volunteering and the learning process that comes with it.
“In order to succeed, you must go through trial and error,” said Nolasco. “You must be willing to take a chance and risk a lot. And that’s why particularly serving for the Peace Corps in Zambia appealed to me. I want to experience the unknown. I want to be an example for my students and demonstrate that part of learning and improving one’s skills, can be done through mistakes and through unfamiliarity because we are not born naturally knowing everything, and we must somehow enforce this freedom, to learn and experiment.”
All in all, Nolasco very much embodies Pace’s spirit of Opportunitas, and will carry that spirit as she heads to Zambia in just a few short months—as well as wherever else her postgraduate career may take her.
“They tell us that it’s going to be physically and mentally draining, but I’m all for it. In order to learn and to grow, you have to be put into something you’ve never tried,” said Nolasco. “I’m mostly excited about being able to do whatever I can do to help, and participate in.”
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