I left for the Dominican Republic as a Peace Corps volunteer at the age of 26, armed only with great passion, a fierce determination and the remarkable education I received at Concordia College. It was to be the beginning of a life-changing two-year odyssey.
Working in the area of economic development, I served as an advisor to a small agricultural community called El Corozo Abajo in the province of Monte Plata. There, I was assigned to work with an organization funded by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAD) in partnership with Mondelez International (formerly known as Kraft Foods, Inc.).
This micro business was composed of 12 women who produced a variety of chocolate products. My primary task were to help increase the group’s market share through more aggressive entrepreneurial efforts and to add a higher degree of professionalism to its business practices and procedures.
By consulting closely with these wonderful and spirited women on such things as customer service, product development, fundraising, as well as various promotional and marketing strategies, we were able to achieve extraordinary results. In our two years together, sales jumped by 43% and profit margins increased by 19%.
But beyond the commercial success, I am even more proud to point to the way community spirit and cooperation also began to thrive. To help encourage this further, I facilitated several courses in youth development and entrepreneurship, which led to more job opportunities and, ultimately, to an improved standard of living in some of the country’s more impoverished areas.
As I look back on my time in the Peace Corps and all I was able to achieve and all the friends I managed to make along the way, I know that the academic grounding and interpersonal skills I acquired at Concordia College New York was indispensable to those accomplishments.
When I graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in International Business Management, little did I realize that would be a stepping-stone to pursuing my desire to give something back to society, in whatever I way could.
My professors deserve a lot of the credit for instilling that in me. They didn’t just give lectures on the theoretical framework of international business and management, but rather they encouraged me – and all of their students, for that matter -- to put those theories into practice by participating in corporate lecture trips and studies abroad. They wanted us to understand that real people with real families are impacted by these theories.
I was fortunate enough to take part in one such opportunity in Hanoi where I spent two weeks learning about sustainable development and business strategies. In addition, I participated in other courses of study in Greece and Italy.
But closer to my home – I’m proud to say I’m a life-long New Yorker -- I also was granted a highly coveted internship at the United Nations. Again it was Concordia that enabled this. The college’s career department helped me apply and backed me every step of the way. Once there, I worked with international and nongovernment organizations whose expressed goal is to promote world peace as well as social and economic development. As a result of this internship, I applied for, and later completed, a Master of Arts degree from the United Kingdom.
All that aside, I think the biggest lesson I learned from these treasured experiences and from my four years at this wonderful college is quite a simple one: You don’t have to do anything big to make a positive difference in the world; you just have to do something.
I know that philosophy and my positive values will serve me well in my next career move, which I hope will be with the government or a nonprofit organization. I’m open to all the possibilities of life
And thank you for that, Concordia.