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Alumni Spotlight: Giving the Gift of Reading

Mari Grover“I must thank WMU for not only giving me a wonderful undergraduate experience, but the chance to study abroad and discover what I love doing. If I hadn't been encouraged to study abroad, I would not be doing now what I love in the Peace Corps.”

Mari Katherine Grover (B.S.’18, Speech Pathology & Audiology) was in her final year as a student at WMU when she began preparing her application for the U.S. Peace Corps.

At 22, Mary was seeking to not only gain valuable experience living abroad, but she also wanted to become a better and more informed global citizen. Today, she’s helping Rwandan students learn to read in both English and their native language of Kinyarwanda.

“I wanted to educate myself and gain a better understanding of common health and educational problems in sub-Saharan Africa,” Mari explained. “I also wanted to contribute my time and skills doing local grassroots level work, providing lasting and sustainable solutions for communities.”

And she’s doing just that.

After working in a Rwandan classroom teaching English as a second language for two terms, it became clear to Mari that the students would benefit from access to weekly reading, and in general-- simply having access to books.

So, she decided to build a school library. She explained that the main focus is to promote literacy first among primary aged students in their native language of Kinyarwanda, an idea that has been highly encouraged by the country’s government.

“As my counterparts and I began to organize the new library furniture and books donated through a Peace Corps grant, students asked to read in the library soon as I opened the door,” Mari said (the grant was secured with the help of a fellow English teacher, Diogene). “There is so much excitement by all the teachers to have a special place for reading, but also a beautiful space they are proud to call the school’s library.”

Mari had always loved studying and learning about other cultures, and that love was amplified when she had the opportunity to study abroad as a WMU student.

In 2017, Mari was awarded the Haenicke Institute for Global Education Scholarship and traveled to Dakar, Senegal to participate in a five-week capstone research course, ‘Causes of Globalization and Consequences on Systems.’ During her time in Senegal, Mari completed ‘Communication Interventions in West Africa and the U.S. Midwest,’ a project that allowed her to combine her interests in speech-language pathology, education, and development. She later presented the project at the 2018 Michigan Speech and Hearing Association Convention.

I must thank WMU for not only giving me a wonderful undergraduate experience,” Mari said, “But the chance to study abroad and discover what I love doing. If I hadn't been encouraged to study abroad, I would not be doing now what I love in the Peace Corps.”

When her service in Rwanda ends, Mari plans to stay in the country and pursue a Master’s degree in International Public Service and Development. She encourages all students to elevate their educational experience by studying abroad, and to take the chance to examine world problems from a different angle. The experience, she says, is priceless, and will turn you into a better world citizen.

“My studies and leadership opportunities at WMU did give me the confidence and assurance that I could do anything I set my mind to,” Mari said. “Although life-after college and life in the Peace Corps are not nearly the same, but I can say I graduated from WMU with a preparedness that I could handle starting a new life chapter and tackling all new challenges, even in a new country.”