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Peace Corps Week to highlight contributions of ASU community

woman posing with women in Ethiopan dress
March 02, 2015

As the state’s top-producing school for Peace Corps volunteers, it’s no surprise that Arizona State University boasts many community members who served in the corps. For many, the experience defined their lives and shaped their role at the university.

Mary Jane Parmentier is fluent in four languages, received her doctorate in international studies and developed the Global Technology and Development program at ASU. Working as a Peace Corps volunteer in a rural village in Morocco from 1986-1988, Parmentier admits the experience was a significant driver of her success.

“While wanting to help others is a worthy goal, if you go with the objective of learning, you can't go wrong,” she said.

Peace Corps was established on March 1, 1961 by President Kennedy. Created to make a difference at home and abroad, the Peace Corps allows volunteers to immerse themselves in a new culture and experience life-defining moments that ultimately lead to a lifetime of opportunities.

ASU’s James Rush is a testament to that life-altering experience. In the fall of 1968, all it took was a trip to the library and a plane ride across the world for Rush to discover his path in life. Coming from a typical suburb, he discovered the Peace Corps, learned everything he could and then journeyed to Southeast Asia, where he served as a teacher. Now a published author and successful professor, the Yale-educated Rush admits that his Peace Corps experience shaped his career path and taught him some important lessons – including being open to the rest of the world and different cultures.

“Had I not been in the Peace Corps, most of the important events in my life wouldn't have happened the way they did,” said Rush, who is an associate professor in the Department of History within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “I have always believed in the idea of the Peace Corps. I liked the concept of Americans living abroad and teaching and learning. Our contributions are very small. You don’t do it for pleasure, you do it to enhance the depth of your life experience.”

Nationally, ASU ranks among the top 20 large undergraduate schools for Peace Corps volunteers, with nearly 40 undergraduate alumni currently volunteering worldwide. And, for the first time, ASU also ranks as a top graduate school, tied at No. 10 with nearly 10 graduate students currently volunteering.

Caroline Savalle, an internship and experiential education specialist in the School of Sustainability, has an opportunity to help students become aware of service opportunities.

Savalle recalls how from 1998-2000 she was in a similar situation as the students she currently advises, when she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Slovakia. She said those two years abroad helped her realize her love for education and international studies.

"When I was in college, I studied abroad in England during two separate semesters and loved the experience of being in another country and traveling," said Savalle. "Being able to embed yourself in a new culture, learn the language and discover things about the world and yourself are gifts that can only be experienced from this type of program."

Caroline shares advice for students or anyone wanting to join the Peace Corps. "If students don’t have any major reasons holding them back, I encourage them to seriously consider joining the Peace Corps," said Caroline Savalle. "ASU makes this invaluable experience attainable by providing information sessions and a lot of resources to help them get the information they need."

The stories of ASU community members who have or plan to serve in the Peace Corps exemplify why the university has consistently ranked in the top 20 undergraduate schools for three consecutive years. This year, Peace Corps Week at ASU will welcome prospective, current and returned Peace Corps volunteers – and the entire ASU community – to attend events.

Peace Corps Week events include:

Peace Corps Pop-up
11 a.m.-2 p.m., March 3-5, various campuses and locations

Viewing of 'Girl Rising' and Panel Discussion
6-8 p.m., March 4, Memorial Union, Pima Room, Tempe campus

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers: First Friday Art Exhibit
5-9 p.m., March 6, ARTS Market @Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix

For more information about Peace Corps Week, visit: