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News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

4-23-08

Chris and Tammi Martin

Iowa State faculty-staff couple Chris and Tammi Martin will serve for two years as Peace Corps volunteers in Ghana. Photo by Bob Elbert).

Contacts:

Chris Martin, Art and Design, (515) 294-1639, chmartin@iastate.edu

Tammi Martin, Center for Crops Utilization Research, (515) 294-1646, tkmartin@iastate.edu

Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778, tbarron@iastate.edu

Iowa State University faculty-staff couple head for journey of a lifetime in the Peace Corps

AMES, Iowa -- It's not your typical faculty leave. But for Chris and Tammi Martin, joining the Peace Corps is the assignment of a lifetime.

Chris, associate professor of art and design, and Tammi, administrative specialist in the Center for Crops Utilization Research, depart June 7 for two years of service in Ghana. Chris will teach art and Tammi will teach computer literacy.

For Chris, who teaches wood design at ISU, teaching art in a non-Western culture with limited resources offers the opportunity to become a better teacher. For Tammi, this is the chance to fulfill one dream and cultivate another.

"I've wanted to do this since I've known about and understood the concept of Peace Corps," said Tammi, former manager of Worldly Goods, Ames' fair trade store.

Tammi even had the Peace Corps' application in hand while still in college. But she met Chris (in a scuba diving class at Iowa State in 1988), and her "priorities weren't really to leave the country then."

"So I thought, 'I'll do it when I retire,' " she said. "I figured I'd have that much more experience and knowledge to give to the Peace Corps."

A few years later, while working at Worldly Goods, Tammi chatted with a returned Peace Corps volunteer shopping in the store.

"I told her that I've always wanted to join Peace Corps and that I plan to do it when I retire and have more to offer," Tammi said. "She stopped me in mid-sentence and said, 'You need to do it right now and you'll have that much more to give for the rest of your life.' "

That advice stuck with Tammi. So when Chris started to discuss his future faculty professional development assignment (faculty leave) in terms of international service, Tammi brought up the Peace Corps.

It's taken more than a year to make it happen. Chris first gained the support of Roger Baer, chair of art and design. Because faculty leaves are limited to no more than 12 months, Chris agreed to take the second year as leave-without-pay, and to return to Iowa State for a minimum of two years.

Next, the couple tackled the Peace Corps' "extensive" application and interview process, and obtained the necessary dental and medical clearances.

Now that they have their country assignment and departure date, the Martins can plan. Chris bought a solar shower ("I hate being dirty") and is exploring how to blog ("if we have regular internet access"). Tammi is learning all about Ghana. ("There are more than 70 languages and fufu--a mixture of cassava root and plantain--is a food staple.") They will rent their Ames house and store some possessions. They've started the comprehensive series of vaccinations required--for malaria, rabies, typhoid, yellow fever, polio and other diseases. Most of all, they're wondering what their jobs and lives will be like for the next two years.

"I'm most excited and terrified about being in a completely unfamiliar culture that I have absolutely no experience with. It will be intriguing," Chris said.

"What will it be like to teach carving or drawing, textiles or calabash (gourd) art without having an arts supply store down the road?" Chris said. "You have to figure it out. I'm excited about having to be resourceful.

"It goes back to improving myself as a teacher," he said. "Being able to bring back these experiences to share. Learning different points of view toward life. It will make me a better teacher."

The couple also hopes to develop a project secondary to their teaching. It would combine their backgrounds in art, sustainable design and fair trade.

"If there's interest, we could offer some kind of small business development project for creating, developing and marketing handcrafted art items out of locally available materials," Tammi said. "Basically it would be teaching sustainable entrepreneurship."

And that, they say, could possibly develop into an exchange or study abroad program for ISU students.

Coordinating such a program might just be Tammi's dream job.

"If you take students from here to a developing country to work within a whole different set of parameters than what they're used to, they not only get a global view, they learn to work and think creatively with a different set of resources," Tammi said.

"It's so important to see the world and experience the world outside of our own."

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Quick look

For Chris and Tammi Martin, joining the Peace Corps is the assignment of a lifetime. Chris, associate professor of art and design, and Tammi, administrative specialist in the Center for Crops Utilization Research, depart June 7 for two years of service in Ghana. Chris will teach art and Tammi will teach computer literacy.
After June 1, check http://www.chrismartinfurniture.com/ for a link to the Martins' blog from Ghana.

Quote

"I told her that I've always wanted to join Peace Corps and that I plan to do it when I retire and have more to offer. She stopped me in mid-sentence and said, 'You need to do it right now and you'll have that much more to give for the rest of your life.'"

Tammi Martin
Center for Crops Utilization Research