Dr. Jorn Seemann
<b>Department: </b>Geography<br><b>Research Area: </b>Relations between history and geography of Peace Corps volunteers in Latin America<br>
Research Focus: For almost 60 years, the Peace Corps has been sending volunteers to different countries to take part in community projects and help and train local populations. The mission of the organization also focuses on cultural understanding. How do Americans perceive different cultures? What kind of image of Americans is transmitted abroad? These questions address problems and challenges of cultural difference, diversity, and identity, themes that are of extreme importance and relevance in the present.
The aim of this Teacher-Scholar-Mentorship project is to look into how Peace Corps volunteers have dealt with people and culture in their host countries, how they engaged and interacted with locals and Peace Corps employees, what they thought about their experience and how their service changed their ideas about culture and the “other”. Due to the abundance of material on this topic (more than 240,000 volunteers since 1961), the focus will be on Peace Corps volunteers who served in a Latin American country in the 1960s. I have gathered substantial material in the form of personal correspondence (letters, postcards, photos), diaries, oral histories and other unpublished documents that I have collected at the JFK Library in Boston. These personal accounts have not been studied by anyone and are available for a research project defined and executed by an undergraduate student at Ball State.
Potential Student Project(s): The collected material on the Peace Corps can be analyzed from many different angles. For this project, the student must be curious about handwritten documents and oral histories and eager to read and write. There is no limit to potential research topics. Students from fields such as human geography, history, anthropology, sociology, languages and women’s and gender studies, among many others, can select a specific topic they would like to explore for a project; e.g., challenges for female Peace Corps volunteers in Latin America, cultural shock among Peace Corps returnees; oral histories of individual volunteers; country-specific studies.
Attributes/skills/background sought in undergraduate:
- enthusiasm and curiosity
- about cultural topics in general and the Peace Corps in particular
- “patience” with archival material,
- mainly handwritten and in digital format self-motivation (= quest for knowledge)
- enjoys reading and writing
- open to new ideas and methodologies
- interest in Latin America
- notion about data collection and analysis
Mentoring Plan: The student will have access to the collected data and other sources for his/her project. Once the project is clearly defined, we will meet at least once every week (face-to-face or virtual) to discuss the student’s findings and progress. The student should dedicate at least five hours per week to the study, but I will be available for a talk throughout the semester. It would be desirable to have a deliverable at the end of the semester, for example, the draft of a paper (can be in collaboration with mentor), a plan to present at a conference or the student symposium or a creative way to share the results of the study.
Contact: 765-285-1774, CL 426P