“At VCU, I was working throughout my undergrad programs, and I struggled my first couple of years at VCU - it took me a while to hit my stride,” said Sanjay Iyer ’10 who double-majored in international studies and homeland security and emergency preparedness. “But service-learning challenged me to take a leadership role, and the guidance I received from faculty and staff in the programs laid a solid foundation for my future work, both at VCU and beyond.”
Iyer’s first service-learning class, “Global Ethics and World Religions,” was taught by Cindy Kissel-Ito, adjunct instructor of Religious Studies. Iyer enjoyed the course and his service-learning experience so much that he asked Kissel-Ito if he could work for her as a Service-Learning Teaching Assistant (SLTA). Iyer paired his SLTA work with an internship for the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program through the Global Education Office. The program brings English-speaking Iraqi secondary school students to the U.S. for a four-week summer exchange to explore themes of leadership development, civic rights and responsibilities, respect for diversity and community engagement.
“I found service-learning to be a great educational tool, both for myself and for others,” he said. “The students I worked with - as a SLTA at VCU, with exchange programs and overseas - enjoyed getting out of the classroom to apply the things they were learning in the real world, in a way that benefited the communities where they lived and worked. In this way, service-learning really helped clarify my career aspirations.”
After graduation, Iyer joined the Peace Corps, where he served as a youth development volunteer on the edge of the Sahara Desert, in the South-East of Morocco. In 2015, Iyer returned to the VCU Global Education Office to serve as a program leader for the Young African Leaders Initiative before taking a position with the Peace Corps Response Program, where he served as the national Malaria coordinator for Peace Corps Zambia through 2016.
This fall, Iyer will begin graduate school in the Foreign Service program at Georgetown University.
“I chose this program because I think it will help shape and develop my understanding of international relations theory and current international development practice - the foundations of which I built at VCU,” Iyer said. “I attribute a lot of my current educational and professional direction to the VCU service-learning program and faculty and the VCU Global Education Office. For the future, my goal is to continue to seek out satisfaction and pride in the service and work I’m doing, focusing on the fields of international education and development.”