11 April 2023 • Service Five Seniors Join Peace Corps By Andrew Wickenden '09

Five Hobart and William Smith seniors have accepted two-year positions to serve abroad with the Peace Corps.

This spring, Hrithik Biswas ’23, Emma Brachfeld ’23, Sam Calderon ’23, Kate Equinozzi ’23 and Johanna Golden ’23 were invited to serve as Peace Corps volunteers for two-year placements in Central America, South America, North Africa and Eastern Europe. For the five seniors, the international service program is an opportunity to engage their academic interests in international development and policy as well as their commitment to public service.

“Once again, Hobart and William Smith students demonstrate why our campus is known for a commitment to community service and global engagement,” says President Mark D. Gearan, who served as the 14th director of the Peace Corps from 1995 to 1999. “I have no doubt that Hrithik, Emma, Sam, Kate and Johanna will fulfill their Peace Corps assignments with distinction, making a tremendous impact on the communities they serve and in the process experience invaluable insights about the world and themselves.”

Hobart and William Smith have a longstanding connection to the Peace Corps. Since its founding in 1961, approximately 250 HWS alums have traveled abroad to serve as volunteers with the Peace Corps.

Biswas, who will serve as a Community Development Associate in North Macedonia, says the Peace Corps offers a chance to advance community development and cohesion. Having interned in the healthcare and finance sectors, he was initially unsure of his path after graduation but says that his study abroad experience in the Netherlands left him hungry “for how much there was to see and do in this world.”

Between Biswas’s conversations with mentors, peers and former Peace Corps volunteers at HWS, “the idea was more exciting and fulfilling than ever — why not now?”

During his service in North Macedonia, the economics and anthropology-sociology double major will work with local communities and organizations to create sustainable community development programs, while immersing himself in Macedonian history and culture. On campus, Biswas is also a Teaching Fellow through the Center for Teaching and Learning.

Building off her service work abroad and a knowledge of Spanish, Brachfeld will serve as a Community Environmental Promoter in Paraguay, educating children on effective environmental stewardship and joining with those in the heavy agricultural-based communities to adopt practices to aid tree repopulation. 

During her semester abroad in Costa Rica, Brachfeld worked at field stations where she was introduced to a wide range of activities revolving around environmental recovery programs, species management and community conservation. Additionally, she lived with a family who did not speak English, helping her to become more fluent in Spanish. Growing up, Brachfeld lived in Spain for three years. 

“I believe that both of the traits that I value, my passion for helping others and my knowledge of Spanish, will help create a unique and rewarding opportunity not only for myself but for those that I am able to interact with,” says Brachfeld, an environmental studies major. 

On campus, Brachfeld is a member of the Hillel student board and works as an assistant lab technician at the Finger Lakes Institute.

In Guatemala, Calderon will serve as a Community Economic Facilitator, developing strategies to help local NGOs and native groups sustain economic security and self-determination. An international relations major and a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar, Calderon was inspired by his semester abroad studying indigenous Chilean cultures. As a Peace Corps volunteer, he hopes to help communities “produce knowledge and access to resources so they can not only live a relatively secure life, but also interact with other communities on the global stage and share their knowledge and stories.”

“The next two years of my life in Guatemala will give me the opportunity to not only interact with the communities there but also travel…and experience what it’s like to live in Latin America,” says Calderon, who plans to pursue graduate studies in international relations after his service.

Equinozzi and Golden, who have concentrated their studies on North Africa and the Middle East, will both serve in Morocco.

For Equinozzi, an international relations major and environmental studies minor, the Peace Corps offers a new avenue for her passion for public service. Through the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, her work on campus has resulted in a booming student voter turnout. During her semester abroad in Amman, Jordan, she interned with a consulting group supporting economic development; and as a member of the AmeriCorps VISTA summer program, Urban Fellows, she saw how she might have an impact as a volunteer embedded in a community over a longer period.

A Teaching Fellow at HWS, Equinozzi looks forward to working with students as a Youth Development Specialist in Morocco, where she will implement programs focused on job readiness and female empowerment, among others.  “Besides the assignment, I am really excited to travel to a new culture and continue to learn Arabic. It’s very exciting, and I think Morocco will be a really fun place to grow as a person,” she says.

Golden, an international relations and French & Francophone studies double-major, spent a semester in Tunisia and fell in love with “the idea of living abroad for a longer period of time, learning about other cultures and finding ways where I can help in conjunction with my local community. Serving in the Peace Corps is not the only way I could satisfy these ambitions, but when the opportunity of living in Morocco and working in girls’ empowerment arose, I had to apply.”

A Teaching Fellow and an active member of PLEN, the women and gender minority empowerment club, Golden has also helped lead the efforts of R.E.D. (Realizing Equitable Decisions), which works to provide menstrual products in public bathrooms around campus. “Womens’ and girls’ empowerment is incredibly dear to my heart, and I am so excited to have the chance to make a difference in girls’ lives abroad,” she says.

While abroad in Tunisia, Golden, a dance minor, also had a chance to explore local dance traditions through a SIIF grant, which “proved to be one of the most profound insights into Tunisian culture, and I hope to have a similar experience in Morocco.”

Top: HWS students serving in the Peace Corps surround President Mark D. Gearan (center): Hrithik Biswas '23, Johanna Golden '23, Emma Brachfeld '23, Kate Equinozzi '23 and Sam Calderon '23.