When Bethany Brown graduated from the Maine Business School in 2008, she applied her skills during a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, where she worked in Thailand helping residents in a rural village start and grow their businesses and develop a tourism industry.
“My MBS classes and extracurricular activities gave me the skills and training that enabled me to make a difference in the world,” says Brown, an international business and marketing major who served in the Peace Corps from 2009 to 2011. She was based in Tambon KaoYaDee, a tiny community six hours north of Bangkok in the province of Chaiyaphum.
Outside of class, Brown participated in a project directed by Executive-in-Residence Paul Myer in which students created a market plan for a community on the Maine Coast to increase tourism. As a member of the University of Maine chapter of the American Marketing Association, she put theory into practice advising local businesses on ways to boost sales. These experiences gave her the confidence to train budding entrepreneurs in Thailand in management, marketing, accounting and inventory management.
“We organized a Youth Entrepreneurship Conference where groups of young people came from all over Thailand to sell soap, jewelry, dolls, snacks and even fertilizer,” she says. “We walked them through the steps of creating a business plan and budget proposals, and we connected them with business resources throughout Thailand, and provided them with materials and supplies. Today their businesses are doing well.”
Brown again called on her MBS experience as she and other Peace Corps volunteers worked with residents to market and advertise their little village as a prime tourist spot. “We lived in a mountainous area with beautiful views and lots of lakes, stone formations and resorts, as well as orchards and farms that grew dragonfruit, lychee and mangoes,” she says. “We created brochures with information about the area, as well as maps showing restaurants and hotels and other landmarks. We put the brochures in the local administrative offices and gave them to people as they came into the community. Village residents plan to distribute the brochures in the province capital.”
Using the organizational skills she acquired at MBS, Brown set up a community recycling bank. “Residents had been burning their trash which created lots of respiratory problems because they were inhaling harmful chemicals. I conducted environmental workshops at the school, talking to students and teachers about the importance of reducing, reusing, and recycling.”
After spending the summer organizing art and play programs for the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy in New York City, she plans to join Peace Corps Response in St. Lucia, working for the St. Lucia Floral Cooperative as an organizational development and marketing facilitator. Peace Corps Response provides returned Peace Corps volunteers the opportunity to serve again in short-term assignments.
The biggest surprise of her Peace Corps experience in Thailand was seeing how a collective society really functioned, she says. “The village was a truly open society where everyone was involved in each other’s lives.”
Image Description: Bethany Brown