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Kappa sisters Neal, Walker make post-grad plans abroad

Barry McNamara

MONMOUTH, Ill. – A pair of seniors plan to spend time on an island after they graduate from Monmouth College in May.

Maddy Neal of Charleston, Ill., will study for a master’s degree in international management at Trinity College in Dublin, while Katie Walker of Knoxville, Ill., will join the Peace Corps and serve in the island nation of Comoros off Africa’s east coast.

Walker credited educational studies professor Craig Vivian for putting the Peace Corps on her radar.

As he described the organization to her, Walker said she was drawn by the opportunity to travel and to “teach kids that really need it. ... The Peace Corps needs good, reliable people to teach English.”

“I’ve always loved to travel,” said Walker, who went to Scotland and Ireland while in high school and will be part of a 10-day College-sponsored trip to Ecuador during Christmas break. “With the Peace Corps, all the travel is paid, plus I get paid while I’m there.”

Craig Vivian and his wife, faculty member Jessica Vivian, served in the Peace Corps. Walker said both were instrumental in helping her navigate the competitive application process. In addition to the standard résumé and references, Walker had to write a personal statement, then sit for a one-hour Skype interview with a Peace Corps representative.

“It’s super competitive,” she said. “There were 20,000 applications this year, and I was one of 4,000 accepted. Both of the Vivians helped me a lot in the process. I would’ve never known about the Peace Corps without going to Monmouth. It’s just something I never thought I’d be good enough to do.”

Walker said she’ll prepare for the adventure by auditing a French class at Monmouth in the spring and studying up on life in Comoros, including its predominant religion, Islam. She said she will also “mentally prepare” for such things as not having electricity, not wearing makeup and eating a diet of primarily fish and rice.

Walker will leave the United States on June 18 and receive three months of training prior to her two-year commitment to be a secondary education English teacher. She said she is “trying not to think that far ahead” about her post-Peace Corps plans, but she’d be interested in a position that helps others get prepared to enter the Peace Corps. Graduate school is also a possibility.

If Walker pursues the latter avenue, she might lean on her Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sister Neal for advice. By that time, Neal will have completed her studies at Trinity.

Neal applied to four schools in Ireland, but when she heard back from Trinity – what she considers to be “the most prestigious school in Ireland” – that’s the one she wanted.

“Applications were open starting Nov. 1,” said Neal. “It was a very quick turnaround, and I was very surprised.”

She’ll start at Trinity next year at the end of August and plans to complete the program in September 2019.

A business administration and economics double major at Monmouth, Neal is happy to add international management to her areas of expertise.

“I want to travel in my career,” said Neal, who will spend a week in Shanghai as part of the Trinity program. “One of the biggest things today is globalization.”