Peace Corps at CSU

Her bags aren’t packed quite yet, but CSU graduate student Alexandra Stanke is anxiously waiting to begin the final leg of the application process and head overseas for a 27-month stint in the Peace Corps sometime next summer.

“I can’t wait. I spent four months in El Salvador and would love to hopefully return to Central or South America,” Stanke said. “I’m ready for a new adventure.”

Stanke, who’s working on a master’s degree in community nutrition, is one of 13 graduate students enrolled in CSU’s Peace Corps Master’s International program.

Students accepted into the program pursue a master’s degree in one of five fields: English, food science and human nutrition, agriculture, natural resources or public health.

After a year of studying, the student is sent overseas as a Peace Corps volunteer and paired with a job that fits his or her level of expertise. After serving for 27 months, the volunteer returns to CSU to finish his or her master’s degree and write an academic paper related to their time spent in another country.

Stanke decided to apply to the PCMI program during the application process to get into CSU’s food science and nutrition master’s program. She said she’s looking forward to getting both field and classroom experience in the years ahead.

“I’m really excited about the nutrition program,” Stanke said. “A lot of careers I’m looking at require either three years in the field or a master’s degree. With this I’ll already be ahead in job requirements.”

Campus recruiter Joël McClurg said you don’t have to be a graduate student to get accepted into the Peace Corps.

“If you have a bachelor’s degree and can demonstrate community service experience, technical background, emotional maturity, and cultural sensitivity you’d make a very competitive applicant,” McClurg said.

CSU has a long history of working with the Peace Corps.

In the early 1960’s CSU engineering professor Maury Albertson wrote a feasibility report that would lay the groundwork for the Peace Corps. He’s credited as being one of the co-founders of the organization.

This history, McClurg said, is one of the reasons why CSU can usually be found in the top 15 universities with alumni serving in the Peace Corp. In 2011, the university was ranked 10th in the country with 79 alumni serving.

“There’s not many universities with a recruiter on campus,” McClurg said. “Being a land grant university with a large population of agricultural and natural resource majors helps a lot also. Those backgrounds are always needed in Peace Corps.”

Lucas Alamprese, who’s working on a master’s degree in community nutrition and is enrolled in the PCMI program, returned from Matagalpa, Nicaragua this spring to finish the last year of his graduate program at CSU.

Alamprese worked as a community health promoter, travelling to rural communities to teach nutrition and maternal child health. He also conducted HIV/AIDS education classes and talked about vector disease prevention.

He found the work challenging but rewarding. Any new volunteer should come into the program with realistic expectations, Alamprese said.

“The first day I got there I was like ‘I’m going to change the entire country,’” Alamprese recalled.  “At the end of the day maybe I changed the minds of a few women to eat better during pregnancy or something like that. That did give me a sense of satisfaction that I was able to do at least that.”

It takes nine months to a year for Peace Corp applications to be processed. Applications are available year round, McClurg said.

Senior Reporter Austin Briggs can be reached at news@collegian.com.