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K-State Today

February 20, 2012



Academic advising student strives for master's while serving Peace Corps

By Pam McGlynn

Susan Kay is a student in the Kansas State University academic advising master’s program. But Kay is a bit unusual in that she is working toward 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 said her job was rewarding, and she maintains an excellent relationship with the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging. But Kay 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 U.S. 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 said, “The students are hopeful, hard working and intelligent; they deserve the best I can provide.”

Kay shares her learning with her host country co-worker, 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 said.

Kay’s work with students extends beyond the center. She 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,” Kay said. She is also engaged with students through the Paul Coverdell World Wise Schools 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,” she said.

Enrolling in the 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,” Kay said.

Kay will finish her Peace Corps service in December. When she returns to the U.S., she hopes to complete her master’s degree and find a position in academic advising.

“The Kansas State curriculum, especially the opportunity to complete the classes as a distance learner, is enhancing my Peace Corps service in Azerbaijan,” she said.