Peace Corps is valuable for Friedrich

Peace Corps is valuable for Friedrich

by Kelly Drobac

Lora Friedrich is not only the director of women’s studies and chair of the department of social science, but she was also a volunteer for the Peace Corps for three years after college.

Friedrich joined the Peace Corps after completing her undergraduate education at age 22.

“I didn’t care where I went,” Friedrich said. “I just knew I wanted to be a volunteer in the Peace Corps. I knew I had to learn another language anyway; that was something I expected.”

Friedrich joined the Peace Corps and then spent three years volunteering and teaching in Thailand.

“I taught English as a second language in a small village and I also worked with teachers over there to help them develop lesson plans,” Friedrich said. “My first year out of my three was when I taught seventh and eighth graders English and then my next two years after that were spent helping teachers create lesson plans.”

Friedrich said her responsibilities as a teacher helped her in Thailand.

“I studied books, but I didn’t know how to really teach,” Friedrich said. “I was only 22 and soon I became the expert of the village.”

After returning home from the Peace Corps, Friedrich obtained her masters degree in social work at Washington University in St. Louis. She went on to get her doctorate in sociology from Ohio State University.

Friedrich has been teaching at Simpson for 10 years now. She got her job because a new position was being created and her two degrees fit the job description.

“My two degrees together is not normally a common combination,” Friedrich said.

Junior psychology major Alison Zimmer, who has had many classes with Friedrich, appreciates her teaching style.

“She goes above and beyond your average professor in her passion for her work and her love for her students,” Zimmer said. “She is not a professor I am intimidated to talk to. Her classes make me feel like I can openly speak my mind.”

Junior Jamie Olberding travelled to Thailand with Friedrich on last year’s May Term trip.

“I never knew Lora before I went to Thailand,” Olberding said. “But now I feel like I learned so much about her as a person and her love to help others.”

Friedrich has traveled to Thailand four times since her initial Peace Corps experience. She has taken three May Term trips there and one summer trip.

“It was really amazing to go with her because she speaks the language and she has such a passion for the Thai culture,” Olberding said.

Friedrich isn’t the only Simpson faculty member who joined the Peace Corps; many other faculty members have lent their skills to the Peace Corps as well. Retired Professor of Spanish Nia Kos volunteered in Venezuela and Megan Stout, who graduated two years ago, is currently serving in Kyrgyzstan.

Friedrich said the Peace Corps is always looking for people who want to join and help out the world.

“They are just not looking for teachers anymore,” she said. “They are looking for a variety of people – public health people who have an emphasis on HIV studies and people who can help develop businesses in remote countries.”

The Peace Corps isn’t limited to anyone’s age. Friedrich said she worked with an 80-year-old retired woman in Thailand.

“She was retired, but she still wanted to teach and give back what she had to offer,” Friedrich said.

Zimmer, who also traveled with Friedrich to Thailand for May Term, said her first experience in Thailand was a surprising one.

“It was a complete culture shock, but in a good way. It was unbelievably hot. It was like a complete heat wave hitting you, even at 1 a.m.,” Zimmer said. “If I went completely by myself to Thailand, much like Lora did, I don’t know if I could do it.”

Olberding admires Friedrich and the work she did in the Peace Corps.

“Lora is the type of person that makes me want to join the Peace Corps,” Olberding said.

Friedrich said her time in the Peace Corps was a valuable learning experience.

“It is worth exploring what the Peace Corps has to offer,” Friedrich said. “You really can learn a lot about yourself.”