Pronouns: He /Him/His
Dates served with Peace Corps: 2006-2007, 2011-2012
Location(s) served with Peace Corps: Guinea, West Africa
Role in Peace Corps: Agroforestry Extension Agent , Peace Corps Response – Forestry
Date Joined ACE: Aug 2007
Role(s) In ACE:
Volunteer – Aug 2007 – Nov 2007 (Santa Cruz & Flagstaff)
Crew Lead – Jan 2008 – Dec 2008 (Santa Cruz & Flagstaff)
CA State Director – Jan 2009 – Jul 2011
CA Interim Director – Apr 2013 – Jul 2014
Western Regions Program Manager – Feb 2019 – Mar 2020 (EPIC NPS)
Western Regions Associate Director – Mar 2020 – Present (EPIC NPS)
Q: What were you doing before joining the Peace Corps?
A: I was working as a Research Associate with a Communications Firm based out of Pennsylvania
Q: How did you hear about The Peace Corps?
A: I don’t recall – maybe a book? I realized quickly that I wanted to switch gears from where I was currently, but had no idea where I wanted to go. I knew I loved traveling and being outside.
Q: What was it like living in your service location? Did you have significant time off? If so- what did you do during that time off?
A: Challenging, but exciting. I was in one of the most remote sites in PC Guinea with no connection to the outside world, and the only time vehicles came into the village was during the weekly market on Wednesdays. Needless to say, I did a lot of hiking and biking. The nearest town of size was 43km away (or 4 hours along a really bad and mountainous dirt road). There was no power or running water. I had some great partners and friends in the village, and spent most evenings eating with my village family – usually a dish of rice and leaf or peanut sauce. I spent the days working with local farmers and cooperatives, climbing trees and collecting seeds, starting nurseries, and tutoring students in English. I also travelled to different PC sites around the country to help volunteers get some forestry projects started, and I hosted some folks who were doing health education. For down time, which there were significant amounts of, I read (oh so much), I listened to a lot of short-wave radio (many thanks to the BBC World Service!), I did a lot of hiking, and I travelled around visiting and working with other volunteers.
Q: In what ways did The Peace Corps shape your life personally and professionally?
A: Professionally, Peace Corps started me down the path to community engaged conservation. I have continued this type of work with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and of course, ACE. Academically, my Masters degree was funded through a Peace Corps fellowship, in which I also focused on community engagement. Personally, I learned new levels of patience and adaptability. I learned from my Guinean neighbors true generosity, strength, and perseverance. And there were lots of opportunities to reexamine priorities, preconceptions, expectations, and the like…
Q: Where did you hear about ACE?
A: I was sitting in Bamako, Mali with my fellow volunteers waiting to see if Peace Corps Guinea would reopen after we were evacuated because of political unrest and violence in the country. Another volunteer invited me to dinner to meet her friends who were traveling through West Africa. One of them was a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Mauritania in the 90s. That was Josh Shapiro who was the original director of ACE California and has since been a long-time ACE Partner in the Smokies since. He told me all about the program, so after traveling through Zambia and Malawi for a few months, and doing a stint as a crew leader with a landscaping company in Delaware, I packed up my car and drove out to California later that same year.
Q: What skills did you learn in the Peace Corps that apply to being associate director in ACE?
A: Flexibility, working with shifting expectations, patience and engagement.
Q: How do you fill your time outside work? What’s your favorite outdoor activity?
A: Outside work I spend most of my time hiking, (snowshoeing nowadays), brewing beer, and burning through my Netflix queue. When it’s safe to travel, that also makes up a big part of my life.
Q: Lastly, what would you say to a current ACE member that aspires to be in the Peace Corps?
A: Everyone’s experience is their own and there are vast differences in project type and administration of Peace Corps in each country! That said, talk to everyone you can about their service. I experienced my highest highs and lowest lows as a Peace Corps volunteer, but it was transformational, and I went back for a second round (and hope for a 3rd sometime down the road). You need to be flexible and be okay with your expectations being completely shattered, but that’s actually not a bad thing. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re up for an incredible experience that will challenge you in ways you won’t begin to anticipate, it’s worth looking into.