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Xavier Magazine | November 21, 2017

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Profile: Eileen Cronin

Caroline Purtell

Eileen Cronin
Bachelor of Arts in English, 1987 | Deputy director of the Peace Corps, Bangkok

Graduation Gift | In 1987, Loret Miller Ruppe, director of the Peace Corps, delivered the commencement address at Xavier that followed Cronin through the corporate and non-profit world for the next 12 years. “She talked about our backyard as not just our neighborhood, our immediate community, but the world and how what we do as a family, neighborhood and community impacts the rest of the world. I came to a crossroads in my career and decided—after thinking about it for more than 10 years—to join the Peace Corps as a volunteer in 1999.”

First Run | Cronin’s first job was in a small town in Macedonia where she worked with the mayor on community development projects, including renovating schools and rebuilding the city’s antiquated water systems. She also taught English at the high school. A little more than a year later, the Peace Corps evacuated Cronin due to civil unrest in the country. “It was very hard for me to leave my community after being there for one and a half years, so along with some fellow volunteers, we started a foundation to support Macedonian students studying in the U.S. as well as development projects in Macedonia.”

New Direction | After running the foundation for a year, Cronin was hired by the Peace Corps as associate director in 2003 to assist with the re-entry of its program in the Fiji Islands. “The program closed five years earlier and we had to start from nothing and build a program. Part of my job was to travel to outer islands and assess their viability to host Peace Corps volunteers. This included some very interesting travel arrangements: boats stopping in the middle of the ocean so I could jump off and get on a smaller boat, hiking into remote villages, off-road travel through the jungle. After two years in Fiji, I was asked to transfer to Thailand.”

Thai Time | After the December 2004 tsunami, the Thailand program needed an experienced person to manage a program for Peace Corps volunteers in the tsunami-impacted areas, develop projects as well as oversee 10 staff members, more than 100 volunteers and 30 seasonal trainers. Cronin now works in Bangkok, but her term ends next year and she hopes to eventually return to the Balkans.

Lesson Learned | “What is so rewarding is seeing volunteers of all ages—our oldest is 80 years old—contributing to their communities and the rewards of making an impact, however large or small it is, in the world. Peace Corps teaches you what you most need to learn about yourself and the world, and that’s a gift—and at times a curse. I learned that the time and space you give to individuals is the most valuable gift you can give to the world.”

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