Scholarship program brings Peace Corps volunteers to Freeman

Edward Crawford

Edward Crawford, far left, worked with farmers in the Dominican Republic to start a coffee co-op during his time in the Peace Corps. After his service, he enrolled in the Freeman School’s MBA program to gain a greater understanding of business.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic, Edward Crawford started a cooperative to help local coffee farmers earn more money from their annual harvests, but the then recently graduated English major soon found himself taking on new and unfamiliar responsibilities.

“I was putting together the co-op’s board, leading board meetings and doing the legal work to form a business in another country, but I had no formal business training,” Crawford says. “I wanted learn how real businesses operated.”

When Crawford completed his service, he enrolled in the MBA program at the Freeman School.

“I saw business school as a way to formalize my knowledge in business — accounting, finance, marketing — and learn how all the different pieces work,” says Crawford (MBA ’09), who today serves as president of Coltala Holdings, a Fort Worth-based private equity firm. “Peace Corps volunteers tend to be very entrepreneurial, and the Freeman School has a great entrepreneurship program. Plus, Tulane’s reputation for service really appealed to me. It was a way for me to continue my service through business school.”

Now, thanks to a new scholarship program, Freeman is bringing more Peace Corps volunteers to Tulane.

The Tulane University 2020 Peace Corps and Fulbright Initiative provided graduate scholarships for Peace Corp volunteers (PCVs) called back from international placements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the program, the Freeman School committed to offering significant scholarships to every Peace Corps volunteer admitted for the spring 2020, fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. These scholarships could be combined with other offers resulting in greater financial support — up to full tuition — and they were also available for PCVs wishing to pursue two Tulane degrees, such as a master’s degree in Latin American Studies and an MBA.

“Business is about solving problems, and that’s exactly what Peace Corps volunteers do every day all over the world,” says John Clarke, associate dean for graduate programs. “Our programs teach the technical and managerial skills necessary to
accomplish complex tasks and lead large organizations, skills applicable to Peace Corps veterans whether they wish to continue their service in government or the nonprofit sector or transition to a new career.”

Thanks in part to the scholarship program, the Freeman School admitted four Peace Corps volunteers and one Fulbright scholar to business graduate programs for the 2020-21 academic year:

• Lucas Cummings (full-time
MBA), Fulbright Scholar,

• Harrison Fox (Master of
Business Analytics), Peace
Corps volunteer, Ethiopia

• Phillip Lentsch (Master
of Business Analytics), Peace
Corps volunteer, North

• Kyle Messer (Professional
MBA), Peace Corps volunteer,
Dominican Republic

• Nicholas Sherwood (fulltime
MBA), Peace Corps volunteer,
Kyrgyz Republic

“With a global pandemic going on, returning back home without a plan was scary,” says Cummings. “Tulane created an opportunity for me to find my footing and pivot into a great business education.”

While the program was established for the 2020-21 academic year, Clarke says fellowships are still available for Peace Corps volunteers interested in starting Freeman graduate programs in spring and fall 2021.

“We’re always going to seek to provide substantial financial assistance to returning Peace Corps volunteers as well as those from AmeriCorps, Teach for America, Venture for America and other domestic and international volunteer organizations,” Clarke says. “Freeman has a long history of being a destination of choice for these highly talented and motivated individuals, and we intend to continue that tradition.”

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