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Alumnus Changes Tune for a Better World

Highly decorated graduate went from promising musician to a rising star in the US State Department, where he works to engage international youth and promote innovative educational resources.

Date: 12/5/2012
By: Tom Robinette
Phone: (513) 556-8577
For Paul Kruchoski, one of the first steps to changing the world was changing his degree.

The Albuquerque, N.M., native and accomplished cellist came to the University of Cincinnati for its renowned College-Conservatory of Music. However, when he saw a documentary about human rights abuses in Africa, he felt differently about his future as a musician.

“As I sat watching this film, I asked myself, ‘How can I justify spending $200,000 on an instrument and focusing myself entirely inward when there is so much good that I could be doing out in the world?’” says Kruchoski, a 2010 UC alumnus. “I never came up with a good answer to that.”
Alumnus Paul Kruchoski works with the US State Department on reaching out to international youth and taking advantage of new educational technologies.

Shortly afterward, Kruchoski was designing his own unique degree through the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences’ Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Program with guidance from associate professor of communication M.J. Woeste and professor emeritus of political science Howard Tolley. Through this program, students can craft individualized programs of study to meet personal or career goals that cannot be attained through preexisting programs. Kruchoski devised a degree that focused on cross-cultural communication and included a certificate in international human rights.

Kruchoski has carved quite a niche in Washington, D.C., beginning with internships at the State Department during his junior and senior years. Since graduating, he’s continued to make a name for himself inside the Beltway. This fall he was named one of the 99 most influential foreign policy leaders under the age of 33, or the “99 Under 33,” by the Diplomatic Courier and Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.

He has worked in the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, which serves as liaison to the United Nations. In August, he began working as a special assistant for policy in the State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, where he focuses on the Middle East and North Africa, and on innovative uses of technology in education. Kruchoski also contributed to the development of the State Department’s Youth Policy, announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in February.

“I've really been on the front lines the last couple of years on the State Department's work to engage young people,” Kruchoski says. “Young people want education and opportunities for jobs and to be entrepreneurs. Addressing these needs didn’t used to be the first thing that jumped to the minds of foreign policy leaders, but increasingly it is today.”

Kruchoski thinks one way the State Department can help the youth of the world achieve those opportunities they seek is by aiding the proliferation of new technologies in educational resources. Specifically, he’s looking into how to take advantage of distance learning, open educational resources (OER) and massive open online courses.

He says textbooks in international classrooms are frequently expensive, out of date or nonexistent. That’s part of why he’s particularly interested in OERs, which are free textbooks, curricula and other materials released under an open license that allows anyone to reuse and adapt them. For now, Kruchoski is working on finding methods the State Department can use to get these resources to the people who need them most.

“I think the State Department has some really fantastic tools,” he says. “For example, we can use our academic exchange programs to send people around the world who are experienced in open educational resources to help schools, governments and education systems adopt OERs and create their own.”

Kruchoski’s academic career at UC was one of historical magnitude. He was named a finalist for the Rhodes and Marshall post-graduate scholarships, arguably the world’s most prestigious and selective international post-graduate scholarships. To become a finalist for both honors is unprecedented at UC and a rare feat for any individual anywhere. He was one of UC’s most decorated graduates in the spring of 2010, earning the Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence and the McKibbin Prize while becoming a Distinguished University Honors Scholar.

During his State Department internships with the U.S. State Department, his work included helping coordinate the response to the Haiti earthquake with the U.S. Department of Defense and the United Nations, and being part of the team that brought the U.S. into the UN Human Rights Council in 2009.

“The flexibility of UC – through the co-op system and offering internships in Washington through the Honors Program – helps merge real-world skills with academic lessons.  This is what makes the difference for our students,” Kruchoski says. “They're better able to apply their knowledge to the challenges that we face out in the world. I think it's really phenomenal that those opportunities exist. That's one of the things that made the biggest difference for me.”

Keith Stichtenoth contributed to this report.

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