Event Details


Monday, Mar 01, 2010




Etter-Harbin Alumni Center, Connally Ballroom

A Conversation with Aaron Williams, Director of the U.S. Peace Corps

A Conversation with Aaron Williams, Director of the U.S. Peace Corps

Monday, Mar 01, 2010  |  5:00:00   |  Etter-Harbin Alumni Center, Connally Ballroom

The Strauss Center welcomed Mr. Aaron Williams, Director of the U.S. Peace Corps on Monday, March 1, 2010 to discuss the role of the Peace Corps in the world today and his vision for the years to come.  Ambassador Gregory W. Engle (Ret.), Associate Director of the Strauss Center, introduced Mr. Williams and moderated the conversation. Williams began by referencing the U.S. Peace Corps' long-standing relationship with The University of Texas.

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Speaking to a full house in the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center's Connally Ballroom, Mr. Williams said that the Peace Corps works as a bridge between the U.S. and the world and offers opportunities for U.S. citizens to serve abroad. The major difference between the first Peace Corps volunteers of the 1960s and those of today, he explained, is that volunteers today have easy access to communications technologies to disseminate innovative ideas.  However, he said, ""¬¶what has not changed is the ability of the volunteers to speak more than two hundred languages, their sensitivity towards different cultures and their talents."¬ù  Mr. Williams underscored the contributions of the returned Peace Corps volunteers and the impact they have had on societies.

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The increasing number of volunteer organizations today poses a challenge to the Peace Corps to attract young talents.  Mr. Williams said that it is an opportune time to develop new partnerships with NGOs and the private sector. He also said that the Peace Corps hopes to expand its services to the Muslim world.

Finally Mr. Williams took questions from an audience of students, faculty, Austin community members and returned Peace Corps volunteers on the issues of sustainability of the Peace Corps' projects, responsibilities of new volunteers and the optimum time limit for the Peace Corps' presence in a country.  Mr. Williams then joined the returned Peace Corps volunteers for an informal reception honoring their service.

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Aaron Williams became the eighteenth Director of the Peace Corps on August 24, 2009.  He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic from 1967-1970, and upon completing his service became the coordinator of minority recruitment and project evaluation officer for the Peace Corps in his hometown of Chicago.  Mr. Williams' career has focused on the development and implementation of worldwide assistance programs.  He was a vice president for International Business Development with RTI International and a senior manager at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he attained the rank of Career Minister in the U.S. Senior Foreign Service. He also served as executive vice president of the International Youth Foundation. As USAID Mission Director in South Africa, Mr. Williams led a billion dollar foreign assistance program during President Nelson Mandela's administration. In addition, he has extensive experience in the design and management of assistance programs in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Watch the full presentation below:

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