Alumni Spotlight: Derek Maisel, Peace Corps

Eller PDC Alumni Stories

By Derek Maisel ’13

As I walked the mall of UA for the first time as an undergraduate student, I did not do so as a pre-business student. In fact, it took me two years to figure out exactly where my passion lied, before I was able to pick my eventual major. During the spring semester of my sophomore year, I took Professor Gerald Swanson’s Econ 200 course as an elective. At the time, I was a physiology major. However, as Prof. Swanson has done with countless other students, his teachings inspired me to switch to pre-business with an eventual degree in economics.

The following fall, I was enrolled in the Eller pre-business courses, and acting as a preceptor for Prof. Swanson’s Econ 200 course. The latter was very important on my road to graduation, as it ingrained in me the basics of economics. After two years in the Eller School of Business, I was able to graduate on track with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Economics in May of 2013.

Along my Eller road, I was given an assignment while enrolled in Professor Jeff Welter’s pre-business course. The assignment: interview a past alumni in the major you are most interested in choosing for business school. Prof. Welter conveniently had a friend with which he graduated who happened to graduate from Eller with an Economics degree. During my eventual interview with him, I asked what it was during his undergraduate work which helped him most in the (dreaded) professional world. His response: joining the Peace Corps. This answer took me aback, but never quite left my memory. Over the next year, I researched the Peace Corps’ programs, and because of my spirit for adventure, decided to apply.

I had heard the the application process was long and arduous. It proved to be that, and more. Frustratingly, it took 10 months to learn where I would be placed, 4 months longer than they said it would be. During this time, I often wondered if I had made the right decision to apply for the Peace Corps. There were many people who doubted my decision, and thought that I was wasting my time. Yet, I persevered. I was convinced that this was the right choice for me at the time. As a hopeless adventurer, I knew that the opportunity to explore and live in another country while sharpening my business skills was exactly what I wanted to do. Luckily for me, my patience paid off. In October, I received an email stating that I would be departing in March 2014 for Costa Rica.

After such a long road, the end was in sight. Of course, as any one journey ends, another begins. However, it is a relief to know that my next journey will be in Costa Rica. There, I will be working with micro businesses to aid them in developing their infrastructures for both long and short term growth. Simply put, I will be helping them utilize the economic resources available to them which are not currently being used.

For me, this is a dream come true. I could not be happier with the work I will be doing, nor the geographical place that I am fortunate enough to be placed in for the next two years. It just goes to show, sometimes it’s the smallest, and most seemingly insignificant things in life that can alter your path completely. For me, it was taking Professor Swanson’s class. It was interviewing Professor Welter’s friend from college. It was taking a leap of faith for what I believed to be my next step in life. All of these little things combined to send me to Costa Rica to work in community economic development. As a final word of advice: take no matter lightly, for there is no assignment too small, no task too insignificant to change the course of your life forever. Always be aware of your opportunities, because you never know, the next one might just be your dream come true.