Susan Kay is a student in the Kansas State University Academic Advising Master’s Program and like most of her fellow students lives, works and studies far from Manhattan, Kansas. But Kay is a bit unusual in that she is working towards her master’s while serving the United States Peace Corps in Azerbaijan.
After 30 years working in social service programs serving the elderly in northern Ohio, Kay resigned her position to join the Peace Corps. She explains her job was rewarding, and she maintains an excellent relationship with the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging, but had lost some of her passion for the day-to-day work.
Kay’s Peace Corps site placement is the EducationUSA Advising Center, Sumgayit, Azerbaijan. The Center is one of 400 worldwide promoting higher education in the USA. Kay has found fulfillment, purpose and new energy in advising.
The EducationUSA network provided online self-guided training. Kay’s determination to serve Azerbaijan students led her to researching academic advising practices, bringing her to the Master’s degree program at Kansas State. Kay explains, “The students are hopeful, hard working and intelligent; they deserve the best I can provide.” Kay shares her learning with her host country coworker, Günel Asgerova. They discuss cultural differences and implications for student services. “Sharing knowledge is essential to my Peace Corps service and to the sustainable quality advising practices in Sumgayit.”
Kay’s work with students extends beyond the Center. Kay has also been involved with Junior Achievement–Azerbaijan working with secondary school students. “I was a volunteer with JA–North Central Ohio and was thrilled to find JA in Azerbaijan,” says Kay. Kay is also engaged with students through the Paul Coverdell World Wise Schools (WWS), by writing to five different classrooms in Ohio, New Jersey, California and Michigan. “Writing monthly letters to the schools, and answering their questions, is an opportunity to share my Peace Corps experience with children in the United States, introducing them to global citizenship and diversity.”
Enrolling in the Kansas State University Master’s Degree in Academic Advising has enriched her work with students. “My knowledge of student development, my skills in relationship building and communication, interview techniques, and understanding of the challenges international students face, improve with each course I take.”
“I will finish my Peace Corps service in December 2012,” reports Kay. When she returns to the USA, she hopes to complete her master’s degree and find a position in academic advising. Kay concludes, “The Kansas State curriculum, especially the opportunity to complete the classes as a distance learner, is enhancing my Peace Corps service in Azerbaijan.”