University of South Florida

Peace Corps Festival celebrates USF’s growing global service commitment

The University of South Florida commemorated National Peace Corps Week at the College of Public Health with its annual Peace Corps Festival, March 2.

Returned Peace Corps volunteers shared stories and experiences from abroad, while guests sampled international dishes as they celebrated USF’s role as a top producer of Peace Corps volunteers and international volunteerism.

USF System President Judy Genshaft highlighted USF’s recent ranking in the Peace Corps 2017 Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities list.

The Peace Corps currently ranks USF third in the nation for the most graduate alumni volunteers and in the top 18 among large colleges and universities for the most undergraduate alumni who volunteer worldwide.

USF celebrated National Peace Corps Week at the USF College of Public Health’s Peace Corp Festival on March 2. (From left, front row): Returned Peace Corps volunteer Kevin Orner, College of Engineering; USF World’s AVP for Research Innovation and Global Affairs Kiki Caruson; College of Engineering Dean Robert Bishop; USF System President Judy Genshaft; returned Peace Corps volunteer and USF Peace Corps recruiter Wilnie Merilien; Patel College of Global Sustainability’s Peace Corps Program Director Kelly Gaskell; and College of Public Health Peace Corps Program Director Jesse Casanova. (From left, back row): College of Public Health Dean and College of Nursing Interim Dean Donna Petersen; Patel College of Global Sustainability Interim Dean Richard Berman; College of Arts and Sciences Dean Eric Eisenberg; and College of Arts and Sciences Peace Corps Program Director Christian Wells. (Photo by Zachary Murray, USF College of Public Health)

“It’s another recognition of our great success and inspiring our students to help their communities across the world,” Genshaft said.

In addition, USF has been ranked by the Chronicle of Higher of Education as the number one producer of Fulbright Scholars in the U.S. for 2016-2017, according to U.S. Department of State and Institute of International Education data.

Genshaft also announced four new Paul D. Coverdell Fellowship Programs at USF in public health, civil and environmental engineering, applied anthropology and global sustainability.

“Paul D. Coverdell Programs offer financial assistance to graduate students who return from the Peace Corps volunteer program and it gives our service-minded volunteers great incentive to enroll in graduate studies at the best place ever, the University of South Florida,” she said. “Coverdell Fellows share the passion for world experiences across university and help to inspire others to advance to the Peace Corps and take advantage of this great program that we have.”

Returned Peace Corps volunteer Valerie Rojas speaks about her experiences abroad in Cambodia. (Photo by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health)

USF has also launched a Peace Corps Prep program, designed to enhance the experience of undergraduate students by preparing them for international development fieldwork and potential Peace Corps service, according to Genshaft. This new program will be implemented in concert with the Global Citizens Project, a university-wide initiative that aims to enrich undergraduate education through curricular and co-curricular experiences.

The Diversity Abroad Network, a professional consortium of educational institutions, government agencies, for-profit and non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing diversity and excellence in international education, named USF the recipient of the 2017 Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion in International Education (EDIIE) and Global Student Leadership Award on March 2.

“Thank you for all you do,” Genshaft said. “Thank you for making this a top tier school in global issues in every way possible.”

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Dr. Joseph Dorsey

Dr. Joseph Dorsey, an adjunct faculty member at the USF Patel Center for Global Sustainability, speaks about his time as a volunteer in the Ivory Coast. (Photo by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health)

Peace Corps program directors and deans from the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Public Health and the Patel College of Global Sustainability also spoke on the importance of the programs in their respective colleges.

“The distance between public health and peace in the Peace Corps is not a long one,” said Donna Petersen, ScD, dean of the College of Public Health and interim dean of the College of Nursing. “We know that health is absolutely critical to people having hope, and hope is absolutely critical to people pursuing peace, so this has been a great partnership for us.”

Dean Petersen Peace Corps Festival

Guests were invited to sample food from across the globe during the festival. (Photo by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health)

“What we all share, all of us, is a passion for healthy people, for healthy communities and for a healthy environment,” said Eric Eisenberg, PhD, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It makes me feel great to know that we are all pulling in the same direction and that a common language is the language of the experience of the people who live in the world, not the language of our disciplines or the language of theory or method. It’s a beautiful thing,”

USF’s Peace Corps recruiter and returned Peace Corps volunteer, Wilnie Merilien, also a master’s student in the College of Public Health, gave closing remarks.

Wilnie Merilien, returned Peace Corps volunteer and current USF Peace Corps recruiter (Photo by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health)

“Peace Corps has definitely confirmed my passion for the field of public health,” she said. “This week we are celebrating 56 years of friendship, service and peace, so thank you for coming out and joining us as we celebrate our local Peace Corps community.”

Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health

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