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For Two New Grads, the World Awaits

May 9, 2018

For Caelan Welch and Justin Townsend, their first few months as newly minted Fisher graduates will include a deep dive into unknown worlds. As members of the Peace Corps, they’ll log 8,000 miles of travel to engage in two-year service projects abroad.

Caelan Welch and Justin Townsend

A native of Kendall, New York, Welch will head to Paraguay in September to serve as an agricultural extension agent, helping to establish community gardens, teach topics about agriculture and climate change in local schools, and help family farms expand their businesses.

He has had plenty of experience in the field of agriculture. During summer breaks, he worked at B&C Christ Farms, an 80-acre farm located just a few miles down the road from his childhood home. There, he tended to plants in the green house, harvested crops, and helped sell produce at local farmer’s markets. He also helped promote the farm’s community supported agriculture program.

When he first arrives in Paraguay, he’ll begin a three-month, intensive training, learning Spanish and Guaraní, the two official languages of the country.

No stranger to service, Welch also served as a student ambassador for the Office of Admissions, conducted research through the Anthropology Department, and was elected president of the Class of 2018.

Part of his desire to join the Peace Corps spawned from his study of anthropology, economics, and sustainability. Welch originally enrolled at Fisher to study pre-law and political science, but after a semester in the Culture, History, and Power Learning Community with Dr. David Bell, he saw a whole new world in anthropology.

“I didn’t really know what anthropology was before that course, and I learned I was passionate about the topics we covered,” he recalled, noting an interest in issues related to inequity. “There are a lot of people that experience injustice in the world and there is a lot more that many of us can do to equalize that.”

After his two years of service are complete, Welch plans to enroll in a graduate program focused on international development. He hopes to pursue a career with a non-profit or government entity in the development sector.

Townsend, a religious studies and biology major with a minor in chemistry, will travel to Sierra Leone in June to serve as a secondary education science teacher. As goalie of the lacrosse team, Townsend balanced his athletic responsibilities while juggling involvement in Beta Beta Beta, the national biology honor society, and President Rooney’s Student Advisory Board.

Like Welch, he’ll spend time living with a host family in Africa, learning about the culture and language of the country, and he’ll also develop skills in classroom management, building lesson plans, and delivering curriculum.

In the classroom, he’ll draw on the teaching styles of several of Fisher’s biology professors, including Dr. Ed Freeman and Dr. Greg Cunningham, who Townsend said serve as role models and inspiration to him. As a Science Scholar, Townsend worked closely with Cunningham on a two-year research project that tested the sense of smell in red tail hawks.

“I really like their teaching styles and the way they applied everything to the real world; it made me passionate about the material I was learning,” he said. “I want to incorporate that into the way I teach.”

Townsend, who plans to study oncology in medical school after his Peace Corps service, said he’d like to work in the health care system or help on a community farm while he’s in Africa.

While Welch and Townsend will experience entirely different cultures and participate in vastly different service work, both said that finding success in the Peace Corps will require an open mind.

“I’m excited to be a part of a different community and to embrace a new experience,” Townsend said. “The Peace Corps doesn’t tell us much in advance, beyond what we’ll need to bring. Most of the learning happens in country.”

Welch agreed.

“I’m hopeful about what the community can teach me about life,” he said. “It’s important to have a different worldly perspective on life and I’m eager to see how they view it.”