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Seniors head to Peace Corps

Tori Roeck | Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Notre Dame ranked 18th among medium-sized schools this year to send the most volunteers to serve in the group, according to a University press release.

The University jumped five spots on the list from last year as the Peace Corps prepares to mark its 50th anniversary, the release said. Notre Dame was included on this list for the past 11 years.

Peace Corps recruiter Rok Teasley said Notre Dame averaged 23 applicants to the group in each of the past four years. Nineteen seniors applied already this year, and the rolling application process is ongoing.

Current seniors wishing to join the 25 Notre Dame alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps must first complete a grueling application process, according to the release.

Senior Claire Brosnihan said the process includes a lengthy online application, an hour-long interview with very specific and personal questions, and multiple steps of clearance, contributing to months of waiting.

Brosnihan, a political science major with a minor in peace studies, said she would be stationed in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa to work on a malnutrition-focused public health program.

“The Peace Corps gives you a different perspective from South Bend, Indiana and Notre Dame,” Brosnihan said. “Putting all of your beliefs into action is a big part of it.”

Brosnihan said she would like to work in international relations or at an international non-profit organization after her time in the Peace Corps.

Senior Shannon Coyne will also join the Peace Corps after graduation. A political science and Arabic double major with a minor in peace studies, Coyne said she will be teaching English in either Jordan or Morocco.

“I was attracted to the principles that underlie the mission of the [Peace Corps],” Coyne said. “I was interested in post-graduate service, and it seemed like a logical choice.”

Coyne said her minor in Peace Studies prepared her for her time in the Peace Corps.

“Peace Studies classes are good for helping you think about ways to promote international development,” Coyne said. “But more than my studies, my experiences outside the classroom really prepared me.”

Coyne participated in service through the Center for Social Concerns and the Kellogg Institute, and traveled to Ghana and Cairo, Egypt through the University, which provided invaluable service experiences for her.

Coyne said she is most interested in gender issues and will seek a master’s degree in development after leaving the Peace Corps in hopes of working for a non-governmental organization.

Megan Conway, a 2006 Notre Dame graduate, also studied Peace Studies while she was a student. She joined the Peace Corps after graduation and is now at the University of Michigan Law School.

Conway said a class on tropical African politics she took as an undergraduate piqued her interest in Africa. She was stationed in Cameroon, where she worked on public health initiatives.

“We worked with potable water projects, AIDS education, basic health and hygiene and environmental education classes,” Conway said. “And I focused in pre-natal care projects.”

Although her time in the Peace Corps was rewarding and worthwhile, Conway said she learned that international sustainable development, more specifically public health, was not the field for her.

“I had a phenomenal experience, but I realized that I didn’t want to live abroad for the rest of my life,” Conway said.

Conway said the unique undergraduate experience at Notre Dame contributed to her choice to join the Peace Corps.

“I don’t think I would have joined the Peace Corps if I had attended one of the other universities I was thinking of,” Conway said.

Notre Dame’s relationship can be attributed to the University’s mission to serve others, Coyne said.

“It’s definitely the emphasis that Notre Dame students put on service,” Coyne said, “and taking what you learn in the classroom to give back to others.”