From currently serving an apprenticeship in a union working on Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning projects in San Diego to serving in the Peace Corps in Zambia, alumnus Timothy Muldrew ’04 has had a wide range of experiences in the world since completing a degree in environmental science and philosophy at Lawrence. Muldrew detailed the work he completed with the Peace Corps as well as the ways in which Lawrence prepared him.
While Muldrew acknowledged that many of the jobs which he has performed since graduating have not pertained to his degree, he noted that “several of the soft skills that Lawrence University helped me to develop such as being able to work well with others, to communicate effectively, to exercise time management, to adapt to change and to problem solve have been instrumental in my careers.”
Muldrew had come to Lawrence hoping to expand his world view through the liberal arts, having already developed a penchant for exploration by camping all around the U.S.
“These experiences instilled in me a strong desire to protect nature. Around the time I attended Lawrence, environmental studies became a newly minted major. It blended many different disciplines in science and policy into one – something I found attractive,” Muldrew explained.
Over the course of his time at Lawrence, Muldrew managed to complete both the policy and science tracks of the environmental studies program and add philosophy into the mix.
After completing such an intense workload over the course of just four years, Muldrew was ready to take on a new adventure. When asked why he chose the Peace Corps as his next step, Muldrew mused, “Maybe because I was afraid of looking for a job, and I felt a bit burnt out after college. Maybe because I had a desire to help people. Maybe because I always felt a bit different, and I seem to gravitate toward the road not taken.”
Whatever the reason, Muldrew found himself working in Zambia a few years later as a Linking Income, Food and the Environment agent. Muldrew’s work was meant to instill more sustainable agricultural practices in the area he volunteered in and combat slash-and-burn techniques.
Muldrew described his personal experiences with the Peace Corps as positive, but also said, “I always tell inquiring people that Peace Corps is not for everyone and that every experience is different. To a certain degree, no matter the place, all volunteers face feelings of homesickness, cultural shock and having to adjust to different living conditions. However, if you survive the journey, I believe that you become a stronger you. Even ten years later, Peace Corps was the single most life-changing event in my life.”
For three months, Muldrew prepared to volunteer through being trained in the Kikaonde language, conservation farming, HIV/AIDS prevention, income generating activities and cultural adjustment at a forestry college.
Muldrew was the first volunteer in his area. During his stay, Muldrew lived in a grass-thatched, mud-brick hut with no running water or electricity and had no cell phone reception, internet, or even other volunteers within 24 miles. However, Muldrew began to adapt to life in the village by visiting with many people to gain a better understanding of their culture and to identify peoples’ needs.
“Many families weren’t initially willing to take a risk using sustainable practices during my first growing season. Around this time, I experimented by growing my own demonstration plots. I also sought to identify and train local counterparts to aid in promoting educational workshops,” Muldrew said, adding, “I had several successful projects during my service including collaborating with the district level Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Training Center to set up demonstration plots showcasing intercropping and crop rotations with legumes, teaching business skills workshops to local business leaders and farmers and working with the schools to start conservation clubs for kids. I even started a few chess clubs.”
After intensive service in Zambia, Muldrew said “When I came back to the United States from Zambia in 2009 for the first time since leaving, I was culturally and emotionally devastated.”
However, Muldrew had left this experience with a great deal more than when he had begun: “During my service, I learned several important things that helped me such as becoming more comfortable with myself, honoring my failures just as much if not more than my successes, and taking the time to learn more about people, the language, and their culture rather than pushing my own agenda.”
One of the most important and lasting positive experiences of working in Zambia, Muldrew emphasized, was “meeting the love of my life, a very capable, educated and beautiful Zambian woman who, with a lot of work and determination, I brought back to the United States, and we got married. The monumental impact of my Peace Corps service in my life continues to this day,” Muldrew concluded.