Preserving the peace

Sep 052007
Authors: Cece Wildeman

Alumni across the nation are serving in the Peace Corps, and among large colleges and universities, CSU ranks 12th, which is an increase from last year’s ranking of 13th.

“Our recruiting numbers tend to be high and we continue to be one of the top recruiters in the country,” said Karen Gardenier, the coordinator of the CSU Masters Peace Corps program.

In the late ’50’s CSU professor Maurice L. Albertson was called upon to develop a research program in social sciences. Then in January of 1960, Congress announced that it wanted a study done on the Peace Corps.

In response to Congress’ request, Albertson established a team of 20 faculty members with previous experience working in developing countries. They tested their design ideas for the Peace Corps in Asia and South America after first testing them out in the US.

“Many people wanted to volunteer,” Albertson said.

The first group was sent to Pakistan in 1961 and CSU professor Pauline Berkey was sent to supervise them.

“It was highly successful,” he said.

Since this time, CSU has remained in the top rankings in the number of volunteers from each school, with a steady ranking around 12th for the past five years, said Martha Denney, director of international education. Currently there are 57 CSU graduates volunteering.

And the university’s ranking continues to rise because students remain excited about the Peace Corps, said Gardenier.

Since 1988, CSU has offered Peace Corps master’s programs in four different areas, including English, food science and human nutrition, and all departments of natural resources and agriculture.

“There are a lot of students who want to pursue a master’s and go into the Peace Corps, and it is a good way to combine them. It is a good way to apply theory as well as practical application,” said Gardenier.

Tami Wolff-Barry, the CSU Peace Corps coordinator, served as a volunteer in the Solomon Islands for 24 months before being evacuated due to internal struggle in the country.

Although she was present during these conflicts, she never feared her life.

“This was not the only part of my experience, and never once did I feel unsafe in the country. Peace Corps took really good care of us,” she said.

It was an experience that changed her life, she said.

“The people [in the Solomon Islands] were the most friendly people I’ve ever met as a group. They invited us into their country and into their hearts,” she said.

Wolff-Barry recruits by holding general information meetings once a month, setting up a flea market booth once a month and doing classroom talks for faculty and staff that request them. She also has walk-in hours on Monday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and can be contacted by appointment.

“Every year we have a goal of increasing our Peace Corps applications, but as you know, it is a big life decision and one that we can only go so far in encouraging,” said Denney in an email interview.

The biggest reason that people do not join the Peace Cops is that they don’t want to leave their significant other or their dog, she said.

A volunteer spot in the Peace Corps is a paid position.

The number one mission of the Peace Corps is to go only to countries that have asked them to send volunteers and to ensure that they accomplish their goals in an entirely non-invasive way, said Wolff- Barry.

Staff writer Cece Wildeman can be reached at

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