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Alumnus voice: The importance of service

October 11, 2022 - Charles (Randy) Perkins Jr. (IR '20)

Charles (Randy) Perkins Jr. double majored in international relations ('20) in James Madison College and criminal justice in the College of Social Science. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his plans to join the Peace Corps immediately after graduation were delayed until August of this year. His training class stationed in the Dominican Republic was one of the first to return to service.

The following story originally appeared on MSUToday.

man standing in front of wall with Spartan helmet

Service has always been an important part of my life. When I was younger, my grandma shared with me the quote: “Service is the rent we pay to live on this Earth.” This stuck with me and has had a major impact on how I live my life. In addition, in high school I had the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic in partnership with the DREAM Project for a humanitarian effort. We brought books and other materials to support the efforts of DREAM in increasing the literacy levels of Dominican students. Ever since this eye-opening experience, something within me has always told me that this was just the beginning, and that I had to return to the Dominican Republic at some point in my life.

With that being said, I wouldn't be telling the truth if I said I always dreamed of joining the Peace Corps. The summer after my junior year at MSU, I was blessed with an internship experience in California working for a social change organization called the Emerson Collective. As part of this experience, we engaged in “coffee talks” with many of the directors and other employees. I had an influential conversation with Dan Tangherlini, a managing director at EC who has a multitude of experience working in and around the federal government, with one of his most prominent experiences being his role as the GSA administrator in the Obama administration, post scandal.

I shared with him my love for both service and traveling, and my intention of working for the U.S. State Department, with dreams of becoming a foreign ambassador. He suggested that I look into the Peace Corps, as he had a former colleague who served in the Dominican Republic and spoke very highly of the experience. He also said it would be great preparation for a life in foreign service. Fast forward to now, I am now two months into my pre-service training in the Dominican Republic and I wouldn’t change a thing! I am extremely excited for these next two years of intercultural growth and learning, and can’t wait to hopefully make a lasting impact on the lives of youth in the Dominican Republic.

For the next two years, I will be serving in the Dominican Republic as a youth development facilitator. My role will be to foster growth and cross-cultural learning, while working in conjunction with local schools to give youth more access to mentorship, healthy life skills programs, sports leagues and other areas of need as requested by the community. Through this experience, I will also become fluent in Spanish.

After my Peace Corps experience, I plan to foray into the world of diplomacy, and work for the U.S. State Department and, at some point, attend graduate school to further my education.

While COVID-19 delayed the start of my Peace Corps service by two years, that time allowed me to gain more professional experience. I worked for the Michigan Senate in the Office of Senator Marshall Bullock II, where I started as a legislative intern my junior year and eventually became the office manager and director of Constituent Services over the last couple years.

I believe my experiences in James Madison College and the School of Criminal Justice allowed me to find great internships, which opened the door for me into a life of public service.

My overall experience at MSU was a positive one, I would like to thank all my past professors and advisers for the role they have played in me reaching this point in my life. I would like to give shoutouts to Eric Petrie, Lisa Cook, Matthew Zierler and AJ Rice, as well as Galia Benítez, Maxwell Olivero and Yasumasa Komori for inspiring me to follow my dreams, always pushing me to excel and providing a space for my classmates and I to express ourselves.

MSU forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and showed me that it is possible to maintain a healthy balance between a strong social life, while still always striving for academic excellence. I wouldn’t change anything about my experience and will be a lifelong Spartan.