Aggies uphold the core value of selfless service and utilize their education through volunteer efforts across the globe.
Texas A&M has 30 former students currently volunteering internationally and 700 former students having served in the Peace Corps since its founding in 1961, said Nirav Shah, the public affairs specialist for the Peace Corps’s Office of Recruitment and Diversity. Shah said A&M has one of the highest number of graduates who decide to serve post-baccalaureate. Aggies are recruited for the special skills and education gained during their time in College Station.
Christopher Shirley, Class of 2015, is currently residing in the People’s Republic of China as an education volunteer primarily teaching English as a foreign language. Shirley said she hopes to exemplify the Aggie core value of selfless service by volunteering.
“My experience during my tenure at Texas A&M has had a profound impact on my choice to serve in the Peace Corps,” Shirley said. “A&M taught me the importance of teamwork, perseverance and to believe in myself. All three of these things have helped me be successful during my service.”
Peace Corps volunteers move to their country of focus to completely dedicate their two years of service working on a variety of projects that can range from health care, to human rights, to agricultural development. Volunteers are generally placed in a project that pertains to the skills they have previously acquired from their degree or career field, said Returned Volunteer Caitlyn McIntosh, Class of 2015.
After receiving her bioenvironmental sciences undergraduate degree from A&M, McIntosh spent her 27 months serving in Zambia as a volunteer with the Linking Food, Income and Environment Project where she worked primarily with farmers on conservation farming techniques. McIntosh said the greatest challenge she faced volunteering in Zambia was a real lack of resources.
“A lot of [the work] was just getting together with farmers to ask what they thought, coordinating with other volunteers and reading a lot of books on gardening and specific tree purposes,” McIntosh said. “It’s the hardest, most rewarding and life-changing two years I have had to date.”
Grace Cantu, Class of 2016, is currently serving in Guatemala as a Youth in Development, where she has worked with middle and high school students to teach them healthy lifestyle habits. Her projects have included promoting positive mental health habits and sex education, poetry and art competitions, a Harry Potter book club and an essay competition.
Cantu said her time at A&M as an undergraduate and with the Bush School of Government and Public Service as a graduate student inspired her decision to serve with the Peace Corps.
“I believe the Bush School is a special place that not only has exceptional faculty but an inspirational mantra that ‘Public Service is a noble calling,’” Cantu said. “I believe the values of Texas A&M University are those that have led me to a career in public service.”
The Senior Regional Recruiter for the Peace Corps in the College Station area is Holly Van Groll, Class of 2011, who served with the Peace Corps in Zambia from 2013 to 2015 on agricultural and fisheries projects. She said she encourages students to consider the Peace Corps as an option if they feel particularly driven towards public service and international development.
“[Peace Corps] gave me a perspective on other cultures and the rest of the world I don’t think I would’ve been able to get living in a developed country,” Van Groll said. “It definitely broadened my view on how other people live and how other cultures interact. It broadened my experience in all aspects of life.”
For students interested in serving, visit www.peacecorps.gov.