Turner ’17 learns patience as Peace Corps volunteer 

Mallory Turner ’17 says she’s a more patient person after spending the past 20 months in Uganda as a Peace Corps volunteer. 

Mallory Turner '17“Before the Peace Corps I was very Type A. Now I’m much better at going with the flow.  I have also gotten better at active listening and giving more thoughtful responses,” she says.

She works primarily with a local nongovernmental organization working to end child marriage and prevent teenage pregnancy. That NGO, Amani Initiative, and the Peace Corps are implementing Grassroot Soccer (GRS) to bring sexual reproductive health, menstrual hygiene management, HIV, and healthy relationship education to youth through the power of soccer.

Peace_Corps_LogoThis program really took off in my community,” Turner says. “Now we are working to bring GRS trainers to our community to train more teachers, health workers, and community members to implement GRS. This is very exciting since it will be sustainable beyond my service.”

Turner worked with AmeriCorps after graduating from Cornell with a major in sociology. She says sociology professors Tori Barnes-Brus ’97, Erin Davis, and Mary Olson introduced her to new and challenging viewpoints that helped her understand a wider world viewpoint.

This was ideal preparation for her experience in a new culture.

“They gave me the space to become a critical thinker and reminded me to always listen to people with opposing views. I was able to take these lessons into service which helped me when I felt challenged,” she says. 

Turner dreamed of being a Peace Corps volunteer since her childhood in Carbondale, Illinois, and Cornell’s emphasis on the importance of volunteering and giving back to the community solidified those plans. 

Programs such as Alternative Break, Lunch Buddies, and opportunities from the Civic Engagement Office also gave her a space to explore how to be an engaged citizen, she says.

“Additionally, I think Cornell does a good job of reminding students that while volunteering is important, it’s equally important not to try to ‘save’ the community.  This has guided my Peace Corps service and continues to help me understand my place in the Ugandan community,” she says. 

Turner plans to continue fieldwork with an international nongovernmental organization for a few years, then earn a master’s degree in public health with a concentration in sexual and reproductive health

She says she’s just building on her Cornell experience.

“The biggest impact Cornell had on me was giving me opportunities to learn, make mistakes, and grow as a young adult,” she says. “Now I’m comfortable in a culture and language completely different than my own.”

According to the Peace Corps, Cornell College currently has 10 alumni serving as Peace Corps volunteers, and more than 158 alumni have served since Peace Corps was founded in 1961. In 2018 and 2019, the organization selected Cornell as one of the Peace Corps’ top volunteer-producing colleges.