ASU ranks among top Peace Corps volunteer-producing universities

The University has produced more than 1,000 volunteers for the service organization

ASU ranked No. 15 among large universities on the Peace Corp’s 2018 “Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities” list, according to a report from the Peace Corps.

The University has been among top Peace Corps volunteer-producing schools for the past nine years, and 1,081 alumni have served abroad as volunteers, according to the Peace Corps. 

Julia Tebben, a Peace Corps campus recruiter at ASU and a social and cultural pedagogy graduate student, said ASU offers many opportunities for students to get involved with the organization or learn more about it. 

The Peace Corps club educates students interested in joining the organization after graduation, while Peace Corps campus ambassadors promote the volunteer program. There is a Peace Corps Prep program that offers both for-credit and non-credit options, and this spring a study abroad experience called A Taste of Peace Corps was made available to students.

Currently, there are 50 Sun Devils volunteering around the globe in places ranging from Peru to China to Puerto Rico to various parts of Africa, Tebben said. She said that about 17 percent of people who apply to Peace Corps are accepted and ASU’s high numbers of accepted volunteers speaks volumes about its student body and spirit of service.

Tebben said her time volunteering for the Peace Corps in Namibia provided her with countless life lessons and unique experiences. Although her time there was challenging, she's grateful for the challenges that were presented to her and the relationships she formed with fellow volunteers and her host community.

“Change is only ever sustainable if it is community driven,” she said. “I think that’s what Peace Corps does. It’s really about being embedded and integrated into a community so that change happens from the ground up.”

Jessica Hirshorn, an instructor for ASU’s Peace Corps Prep program and co-director for A Taste of Peace Corps, said the value of community engagement at the University is similar to values held by the Peace Corps. 

“ASU has this emphasis on being part of our community and engaging with the community and trying to have a positive impact on this world whether it be through research that professors are doing or different ways people are volunteering,” she said.

Hirshorn volunteered for the Peace Corps in Micronesia and helped teach English to children within the community. She said that through Facebook, she was able to find out that many of her former students moved to the U.S. 

"I went all these years not really knowing what my impact was and then reconnected with my community through Facebook," she said. "Now that I'm older and years have passed, it's easy to see the impact because I helped give them the skills they needed for their future."

Hirshorn said that since serving for the organization, the Peace Corps has continued to be a large part of her life and her role at ASU allows her to experience a different sense of accomplishment.

“It’s not really about me or my experience, it’s about my students and them having those experiences,” she said. “I hope that as time goes on, more and more students on this campus get excited about different opportunities to get involved as well.” 

Zack Mardoc, a graduate student studying finance and business analytics, said he was always interested in the Peace Corps.

“A lot of people dream about going into the Peace Corps for years,” he said. “I was just like ‘This is a really good idea. I don’t see how I could possibly regret this.’ ”

Mardoc went on to volunteer in Madagascar from 2013 to 2015 and helped bring running water as well as proper sanitation and latrine facilities to the communities he was working in. Additionally, he focused on the agriculture sector and helped plant community gardens.

While abroad, he said that modern technology allowed him to communicate with his loved ones back in the U.S. 

"I was in a village with no running water, minimal electricity, dirt roads — and I had cell service at my site," Mardoc said. "I could text and call people from back home in my little house. It's not what it once was. You have more support than you think. You have better access to health care than you think."

Now, Mardoc is a Coverdell Fellow at ASU and helps serve as mentor and guide for students who are curious or have questions about the Peace Corps.

The personal development, such as coming back home with a new and more worldly outlook, was the most rewarding part of volunteering, Mardoc said.

“If you want a new experience, Peace Corps is for you,” he said. “If you want to live outside of the U.S., if you want to learn a new language fluently, if you want to have a perspective other than what you grew up in, join the Peace Corps.”

Reach the reporter at Kimberly.Rapanut@asu or follow @kimrapanut on Twitter.

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