University of Arizona seniors Eliana Carrera, Megan Irby, Gracie Krigbaum and Joyce Wang have received invitations to serve in the Peace Corps following graduation this spring. The students say the university's Peace Corps Prep program helped them learn more about their goals and how to pursue them.
Housed in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Peace Corps Prep is an undergraduate program that gives students a competitive edge when applying to the Peace Corps. Undergraduates from any major can join the program to take advantage of courses, volunteer experiences and mentoring opportunities that increase their chances of being accepted.
"This program supports the university's strategic plan priorities of globalization, diversity and inclusion, community engagement and student success," said Kevin Fitzsimmons, director of international initiatives in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The Peace Corps is a volunteer program administered by the U.S. government that sends Americans abroad to tackle some of the most pressing needs of people around the world. UArizona ranks in the top 20 among large schools on the Peace Corps list of top volunteer-producing colleges and universities. Over 1,600 UArizona graduates have volunteered, with 47 alumni currently serving. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Peace Corps volunteers have returned to the United States, with hopes of continuing service later this year.
Eliana Carrera is majoring in Latin American studies and global studies, with minors in Spanish and business administration, and plans to serve as a youth development facilitator in Peru. She believes her UArizona study abroad experience in Guatemala enhanced her Peace Corps application and inspired her to serve.
"While studying abroad in Guatemala, I was able to develop my Spanish-speaking skills while interning at a school for at-risk youth. Upon returning to campus, I began volunteering with Owl and Panther, where we meet weekly to work with refugee children and families impacted by trauma within the Tucson community," Carrera said. "I also work for U of A's Study Abroad office, where I advise students on studying abroad and the importance of having a global understanding."
Megan Irby is majoring in mathematics and molecular and cellular biology, and plans to serve as a mother and child HIV/AIDS educator in Zambia. She is hoping her Peace Corps experience will give her the opportunity to not only make a broader impact, but also to learn about a new culture and better herself as a person.
"I hope to learn more about the issues that others face in a way that I will be able to better empathize with others in the future," she said. "I also hope to learn more about who I am. Will I stick it out in the face of adversity in order to help others? Will I be able to roll with the punches? Am I creative enough to make this project a success? I hope the answer to all of these questions will be yes."
Gracie Krigbaum is majoring in physiology, with minors in Spanish, public health, psychology and biochemistry, and plans to serve as a community health facilitator in Peru. Krigbaum began participating in volunteer service at a young age and built upon her passion to help others while at the university.
"I have been involved in various clubs, service projects and programs abroad throughout college," she said. "As the philanthropy chair for Alpha Epsilon Delta – the health pre-professional honor society at U of A – I organized 35 volunteer events with 20 different Tucson philanthropies. The summer before my junior year, I had an amazing experience with the nonprofit organization Vive Peru. Working directly with Peruvian health care workers, I provided public health lessons to the children in the community."
Joyce Wang is majoring in computer science, with minors in environmental science and Chinese, and plans to serve in Benin as a sustainable agricultural systems agent. While at UArizona, she realized that having longer-term experiences, whether abroad or at home, would help her develop the skills to be a successful Peace Corps volunteer.
"I volunteered on a permaculture farm in Slovenia through WWOOF (Working Worldwide on Organic Farms) for two months. During that time, I was able to both travel and work in sustainable agriculture. I also gained multicultural/foreign language experience, while studying abroad in Shanghai, China," she said. "Additionally, I worked with the University of Arizona's Compost Cats program, where I was able to teach and work with kids and the local community, learn how to operate heavy machinery and other agricultural skills, and gain an introduction to business management."