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Peace Corps Bound
U.Va. Commerce School Student Trades Fast Lane For Slow Pace On Tonga

May 6, 2004 -- She should have been thrilled. Last summer, Caty Price sat at a comfortable desk in an office cubicle towards the end of her internship for the Cramer-Krasselt Advertising Agency in Phoenix. She had just been offered a job.

“I loved branding, and I liked the people, and the company was great,” said the fourth-year U.Va. McIntire School of Commerce student. The internship had been a good experience, enabling her to draw on her concentration in marketing and management. But all she could think of at that moment was, “I do not want to do this for the next two years.”

Instead, she wanted to do something that would force her to think outside the box. And that’s what she’s planning to do.

Next fall, when her McIntire classmates don pinstripes, fight city crowds and hunker down before flickering computer screens at investment-advising and business-consulting firms in New York and Northern Virginia, pulling down hefty paychecks for 80-hour workweeks, Price will be adjusting to life in the slow lane in the Kingdom of Tonga, a tropical island in the South Pacific. There, as a Peace Corps volunteer, she’ll have to adjust to a new climate, new diet, new language, new culture and new ways of putting her business skills to work.

She knows her job for the next two years will have something to do with youth development, but she’s not yet sure exactly what.

“It’s not all together altruistic on my part,” she says of her decision. “I just think it will be a good way to get some hands-on, business-management experience.”

A native of Shreveport, La., Price, 22, graduated from high school in Roanoke. Her mother passed away when she was 17. Her father, Charles Price, a radiologist now living in Miami, Fla., loved to cook exotic food and expected Price and her two siblings to try new things. “I hated it then,” Price admits, “but I’ll eat anything now.”

It’s a skill that should serve her well in the coming years as she grows accustomed to the Tongan diet, based on chicken, pork, yams and tropical fruit.

Tonga lies north of New Zealand, west of Samoa and east of Fiji. There are currently 50 to 70 Peace Corps volunteers serving in the country, which has a population of 101,000 spread over 170 islands, fewer than 40 of which are inhabited. The country’s economy is based on imports of tourists and exports of pumpkin squash.

Price has enjoyed the bottom-line focus of her education in commerce and fit in well with the many Type-A personalities at the undergraduate business school. But she has another side.

Brought up in the Unitarian Universalist Church, Price enjoys learning about different religions and has pursued that interest through a minor in religious studies.

In the summer of 2001, she worked with the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Faith and Action Office in Washington, D.C., where she developed study guides for the church on globalization, among other topics.

“I’ve always been teased as being earth friendly and was voted by [my McIntire study group] as being ‘most likely to save the environment,’” she said.

In her spare time as a second-year student, Price volunteered with Big Brothers, Big Sisters. She volunteers each year as a counselor for the Unitarian summer church camp, and has enjoyed her membership in the Phi Mu sorority, a diverse group of girls who support the Children’s Miracle Network.

Since her second year, she also has worked 10 to 15 hours a week at Greenberry’s Coffee & Tea Co. in the Barracks Road Shopping Center.

“I’ve always worked; I’ve always saved my money,” Price said. “My mom always told us there was no reason to be bored. We never did much sitting around.”

That drive to keep busy served her well as a student. “I’m really hypercompetitive,” she said.

Even so, she is drawn to programs that combine her interests, such as Leading with Compassion, a course offered by McIntire, for which she wrote a paper about corporate social responsibility. “We need to know who we’re affecting,” she said.

Price believes her experience with the Peace Corps will give her an edge in the job market down the road. It should offer opportunities for hands-on experience in marketing, communication, and people skills, all of which would be valuable for a career in international business.

When her Peace Corps stint draws to a close, she will look for a job in international business in the field of branding and corporate social responsibility, especially in the area of environmentally conscious manufacturing. Price is optimistic about individuals’ and companies’ abilities to effect positive change.

She may need to tap that optimism during her Peace Corps adventure, which is likely to challenge her assumptions and take her out of her comfort zone.

And she’s happy about that.

U.Va. No. 1 school, for its size, for sending volunteers into the Peace Corps

Caty Price is among eight May 2004 graduates who will be entering the Peace Corps. And another 35 U.Va. grads have been accepted into the Peace Corps and are awaiting their assignments, expected to come in the near future.

Such volunteer efforts by its students have garnered U.Va. the No. 1 spot — two years in a row — among all medium-size schools in the country for sending graduates into the Peace Corps.

This year, U.Va. beat out the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for the top honor for all schools in the Mid-Atlantic States Region. When the official count was taken in January 2004, there were 75 U.Va. alumni serving in the Peace Corps, a 10 percent increase from the previous year.

Over 772 University of Virginia alumni have served (or are currently serving) as Peace Corps volunteers.

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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