By Krysten Brenlla
Edward Glab—director of the Global Energy Security and Sustainability Forum at FIU’s Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs and a member of the FIU graduate faculty—vividly recalls one of the most important events in his life: the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Although this tragedy was a national trauma for Glab and Americans across the nation, the assassination of President Kennedy changed Glab’s life, laying the foundation for his career in international relations.
Kennedy’s words—“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”—resonated with Glab, and it was what pushed him to make the decision to do what he thought was best for his country: join the Peace Corps.
The Peace Corps, launched during Kennedy’s first year as president, is a national service opportunity for those interested in immersing themselves in global communities and cultures; their mission is “promoting world peace and friendship” on the part of American citizens. Volunteers work with local communities around the world to develop sustainable solutions for challenges in health care, education, economic development, agriculture and the environment.
To Glab, and other Peace Corps volunteers like him, celebrating 60 years of the Peace Corps at FIU was the ideal match, as FIU’s core foundation was built on global connectivity and collaboration.
“The Peace Corps experience opened many doors for me and enabled me to develop an international, global career—one that allowed me to discover certain things about myself that I didn’t even know,” said Glab. “There is a reason why ‘international’ is part of FIU’s name – FIU was established for this, for global learning and international connectivity. Any way that FIU can help students and alumni continue building on this foundation of global learning, like FIU’s Peace Corps Prep undergraduate certificate program, is a step in the right direction.”
FIU’s Peace Corps Prep undergraduate certificate program, established in 2014 in the Office of Global Learning Initiatives, provides FIU students with the competitive edge they need when applying to the Peace Corps, enabling students to gain invaluable skills and experiences that will prepare them to volunteer in different countries, communities and cultures. Additionally, throughout the certificate program, students have the opportunity to explore interests and passions from a wide variety of areas, such as education, medicine and linguistics.
“Our Peace Corps Prep program at FIU is the embodiment of our founding goals, and the goals for our future,” says Hilary Landorf, founding executive director of the Office of Global Learning Initiatives. “We are proud to be a collaborator in preparing students for such a dynamic and vibrant arm of government service whose mission mirrors our own of global international understanding.”
As a recognized leader by the Peace Corps amongst Hispanic-Serving Institutions for producing Peace Corps volunteers, there was no question that FIU would make the perfect home for the Peace Corps’ 60th-anniversary commemorative gift. Designed by alumnus David Garcia ’85, president of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida, Inc., the sculpture is displayed on the north side of the Deuxieme Maison building and highlights the Peace Corps’ symbols of peace in the dove and intricacy and collaboration in the bench.
“FIU is an international university, and the more students can learn from individuals outside of their own environment, the better off they are,” Garcia says. “Students have the chance to participate in international development right here, at FIU. If I was an FIU student again, I’d definitely be involved.”
Caryn Lavernia, assistant vice president of the Office of Engagement and Peace Corps alumna, emphasized the advantage that FIU students have with the place we call home.
“FIU students or alumni should take advantage of the rich community we live in and the places we come from. One of the Peace Corps goals is around cultural exchange and understanding. FIU students and alumni represent a community of ‘New Americans,’ and make for rich cultural exchange and an understanding of who Americans truly are.”
Tragedy struck America in 1963 when the 35th president was assassinated. It changed the lives of many – but for Glab, it was what defined the rest of his life when he decided to join the Peace Corps.