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Alumna gives peace a chance

Apr 1, 2012
by Caroline Young, '11

Penny Fields devotes self to Peace Corps, serves as country director in Cambodia

After seven years practicing law in Seattle, Penny Fields, ‘88, made the career jump of a lifetime in 2011 when she was named the Peace Corps country director for Cambodia.

But it’s not as far of a stretch as you might think for Fields, who has been involved with the organization throughout her career. She joined the Peace Corps as a volunteer in Africa straight out of college, and later served as an associate country director in Niger and Poland, as well as a training director in Bangladesh.

“We like to say that Peace Corps is the organization that reaches that last mile,” she said. “I have been very, very blessed by my association with the Peace Corps and am so happy to be back.”

The Peace Corps program in Cambodia is just four years old, and it provides Fields and her coworkers several opportunities for development. Fields said their two main projects at present are teaching English and teacher training, in addition to a community health education project.

Founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps was created to promote world peace and friendship. Currently there are more than 8,600 volunteers in 76 countries and more than 200,000 Americans have served in 139 countries.

As country director, Fields is responsible for all Peace Corps operations in Cambodia from program activities and training to financial management. She manages the Peace Corps’ relationship with the Cambodian government and America’s mission in the country.

“It is a very wide-ranging and diverse job that requires excellent management skills, vision and good relationship building abilities,” she said. “Public speaking and writing are also a large part of my duties.”

Fields said her goal is to take the program in Cambodia to the next level and to grow the Cambodian staff’s expertise in order to develop the best program in the world.

“I love Cambodia because it is such a beautiful and challenging place to work where one can really feel like we are making a difference,” she said. “Cambodia has a tragic history and as a result suffers from bone-crushing poverty. … Still, the people and the heritage are amazing.”

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