Torin Peterson

What was your class year and major/minor?

2007. I was an English and Theater major with a Teaching minor.

What is your current job, and city of residence?

I'm a proud resident of Portland, ME (just moved back to Maine for the first time since being at Bowdoin!) and I'm doing codification work for a Boston-based education non-profit named Match Education. Match has an innovative full-time tutoring program that I participated in right after Bowdoin, and I'm working to capture and codify what makes the program tick in different educational contexts.

Did your academic or extracurricular experience at Bowdoin influence how you are involved in communities now? If yes, how so?

Definitely. Both my work with the CSRC (now the McKeen Center) and my student-teaching experience got me out working in communities around Bowdoin, and showed me that I wanted to continue serving communities upon graduation. That has led me to serve communities with pride in Massachusetts, California, and the Middle East over the last several years.

In what ways have you been engaged with the community since graduating from Bowdoin (both professionally and personally)?

In the two years following graduation, I worked with inner-city students and their families as a full-time tutor with Match Education in Boston. In order to pursue my interest in international relations, I next joined the Peace Corps and served as an education volunteer for two years in a tiny village in Jordan. (More on this in my next response.) Upon my return to the US from the Peace Corps, while yearning for my tasty Jordanian rice-and-meat dinners, I have engaged with communities in Lawrence, MA and Sacramento, CA through additional education non-profit work, and now I hope to re-engage with the greater Portland community through education and other initiatives very soon.

What's been your favorite or most meaningful experience in public service since you graduated?

Without a doubt, my time as a Peace Corps volunteer. Long story short, it was definitely the most challenging, the most humbling, and the most rewarding experience of my life to date. The work required deep integration into my community, which meant speaking the language (Arabic), attending weddings and funerals, and, of course, teaching my kids and collaborating with my fellow teachers and the principal at my small school each day. I learned so much about my little community and a huge amount about myself. More than anything though, I valued the relationships I built there. I got to know so many terrific people (who, thanks to Facebook, I can mostly stay in touch with!) and I can't think of much else more personally meaningful, and perhaps also more vital on a larger scale, than being able to call those individuals my good friends, and for those individuals to call me their friend in return. They, and the whole experience, will stick with me forever.

Have any unexpected challenges or difficulties related to this work popped up along the way? If so, what did you learn from these challenges?

Starting with my work in the Peace Corps and then certainly in more recent years, I have faced a number of somewhat unexpected leadership challenges, particularly with managing teams. During and as a result of these challenges, I have learned that service leadership (and probably any leadership) demands seeking out your team members' valuable input regarding many decisions and often (though not always) being more of a facilitator than a director. While this may not be everyone's preferred leadership style, I have learned that this approach often allows me to be a much more effective leader, particularly in making more difficult decisions when my tendency is often to want to close myself off and only 'lead from the front.' I now believe that leading from a mix of the front and back is the most healthy way to go for me, and this is something I will continue to work on in the coming years.

What advice do you have for students who want to work for the common good after Bowdoin?

Do what you love - not like, but really love. Any worthwhile work you do for the common good will feel both incredibly challenging and incredibly rewarding at the same time. Of course, you will feel one emotion more than the other at certain times, but it should balance out for you in the end - and if it doesn't, re-evaluate your choice and then follow your passion. This is the only way to truly serve both your constituents and yourself (and you do need to serve both). See you out there.