Shriver Center, a Peace Corps program targeting social woes, back at UMBC

December 12, 1997|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,SUN STAFF

The Shriver Center -- founded at University of Maryland, Baltimore County four years ago to produce leaders in the attack on social problems afflicting the country -- has moved into a new home and taken on a new partner.

On Tuesday, a ribbon-cutting inaugurated the center's permanent quarters in the chemistry-physics building on UMBC's Catonsville campus.

And center officials have signed a partnership with the Peace Corps Fellows program that expands scholastic and real-life service opportunities for volunteers returning from overseas to undertake graduate study. The Fellows program has 280 men and women in 26 colleges in 16 states, said Fran Bond, the director.

The Shriver Center Peaceworker Program is a two-year graduate program that enrolls eight to 12 returning Peace Corps volunteers each year on a competitive basis. Along with academics, participants work on social projects sponsored by the Shriver Center.

The program was founded in 1985 at Georgetown University in honor of R. Sargent Shriver Jr., President Kennedy's brother-in-law and the first Peace Corps director. It closed after three years and was reopened in 1993 with the founding of the Shriver Center at UMBC.

"The Peaceworker mission is to translate what they learned in the Third World to the United States," said John S. Martello, center director. "It is a unique combination of study and service with emphasis on ethics and social values."

James A. Price III, director of the Peaceworker program, said it "is training the next generation of leaders who can identify and work on urban and social problems. We are focusing on economic and community development, health, education and juvenile justice."

The Shriver Center Higher Education Consortium includes 12 public and private colleges in the Baltimore area at which Peaceworker students may matriculate.

The Fellows program does not include the seminar on ethics and social values central to the Peaceworker concept, Martello said. "But we hope to become the prototype for the Fellows," he said.

Bond said the volunteers' cross-cultural experience and desire to serve is the "domestic dividend" of the corps, founded in 1961 to send volunteers to work in Third World countries.

Andrea Marshall, 28, of Texas, was a Peace Corps health volunteer in Niger, West Africa, from 1991 to 1993. She is pursuing a master's in public policy at UMBC and a law degree at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

"Education is the key to realizing all human potential," said Marshall, who does community service work at Northwestern High School. "My hope is to put my law degree in my tool box to affect education policy."

Michelle Jennings, 31, returned last year from three years in Ecuador as an emergency health volunteer. She found that the Peaceworker program offered an ideal mix of study, field work and work placement education.

"My interest is in immigration, and refugee and disaster relief and eventually I will probably work overseas again, but I will stay locally for a while," Jennings said.

Shriver, now 82, said, "The people who volunteer for the Peace Corps are exactly the kind of people we want back in our country. This may be one of the best contributions the United States will make to the world in the next century."

Pub Date: 12/12/97

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