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Alumni Success Stories

Susan Kay


What year (years) did you graduate and which program(s) did you complete?
I graduated with a bachelor's degree in Recreation in 1977.

What were some of your biggest challenges after graduating that shaped your career?
Early after graduation it was a challenge to select the direction I wanted to go. I began working in activities and recreation with elders. After three years, I had to decide if my future was in the field of aging or the field of recreation. I opted for aging, and worked 30 plus years in programs and services to elders and their families, most recently for 22 years at the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging in Cleveland.

What has been your most significant professional accomplishment since graduating?  Over these years I have presented at national conferences, published articles, received grants, led model programs in areas of health and social services, met President Clinton and former First Lady Roslyn Carter. My most significant professional accomplishment is not one event but thousands: knowing that I have been able to help people in need almost every day of my working career.  The thousands of times someone has said, "thank you" is a source of personal strength and reward.

Are you currently employed, and if so, where?
Currently, I am a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sumgayit, Azerbaijan.  My primary placement is at the Education USA Advising Center where I am an academic adviser to students seeking higher education, many wishing to study in the United States. The Peace Corps has over 9,000 current volunteers in 76 countries; I am one of the 7 percent of volunteers over age 50.  In addition, I am pursuing my master's degree at Kansas State University.

 What made you decide to become a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sumgayit, Azerbaijan?
Although my job was rewarding, and I still maintain an excellent relationship with the agency, I found I had lost some of my passion for the day-to-day work. I was simply ready for a change.  I wanted to remain working in the helping professions but to use my talents and skills in a new area. The Peace Corps does not give a choice about where to serve, I was assigned to Azerbaijan and I am happy to be here.

Do you permanently reside in Azerbaijan or travel back and forth? What is the culture like there?
Azerbaijan is a small country, about the size of Maine with 8.5 million residents. I live and work in Sumgayit, although I did visit my family in the United States last summer.  Peace Corps volunteers serve for 27 months, and I will complete my service in December 2012.

The people of Azerbaijan are terrific. They are welcoming, friendly, and helpful. For eight months I lived with a host family, now I have my own apartment. I buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the local bazaar, I have learned to cook Azerbaijan favorites, such as dolma and plov, and I enjoy learning about and being a part of the culture, and especially love taking breaks for cay (tea) and delicious sweets such as baklava.