Many students aspire to make the world a better place. Three May graduates have Peace Corps assignments that will take them to different places around the globe where they will make lasting impact.
Brandon McKenna-Wagner is off to Senegal to work in sustainable agriculture, Shellee Merryman is heading to Panama to work on water sanitation projects, and Alicia Maskley is going to Timor Leste in the South Pacific to work in economic development.
McKenna-Wagner, originally from Sitka, Alaska, will spend two years in Senegal helping villagers learn to grow sustainable crops and use their land to its full potential so they will have a more reliable source of food.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in natural resources and environmental economics.
“If I have the ability to make a difference, then it is my duty to do so,” he said.
McKenna-Wagner said he’d eventually like to work for an environmental organization or in renewable energies—“anything that gets me outside to make this world a better place for everyone. “
“I couldn’t be more grateful to my professors, friends, and family that have helped me through this process,” he said. “Being a student at UT has truly given me the tools and experience to go on this adventure.”
Merryman, of South Lyon, Michigan, will be helping to build and implement ways for people in Panama to get clean water.
She is graduating with bachelor’s degree in social work.
“I’ve always been interested in serving people and doing anything I can to help others,” she said.
Earning a graduate degree in social work is a future possibility, although she realizes the Peace Corps experience may send her a different direction.
“My long-term goal is to make a difference in rural communities with high poverty rate and possibly be a state senator one day.”
At UT, Merryman has served in leadership roles in Christian Student Fellowship, Women’s Club Soccer, and the Bachelor of Social Work Organization. She also worked for RecSports and was a part of the inaugural Communications and Marketing Advisory Board that met with Vice Chancellor Margie Nichols each month.
Maskley, of Sunrise, Florida, said her work in Timor Leste will focus on “improving everything from sanitation to nutrition, as well as helping rural communities open up small-scale business or increasing the flow of tourism to the island.”
She is completing her master’s degree in history.
“I have always been interested in anthropology and immersing myself in other cultures,” she said.
After beginning her education at a small liberal arts college, Maskley said she was excited about the diversity that UT offered.
“Here, I participated in a variety of cultural activities and engaged with individuals from all around the world,” she said. “I attended the Hola Festival in downtown Knoxville, watched Tibetan monks create a sand mandala at McClung Museum, and participated in a Holi Festival on campus. I’ve met people from countries across the world, including France, Hong Kong, and Japan, and they have taught me everything from recipes to language.
Maskley said her goal is to be a museum administrator “where I can help spread awareness through public history.”
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)