Montana State University

Peace Corps director honors MSU for its tradition of volunteerism

May 28, 2008 -- By Michael Becker, MSU News Service


MSU alumna Jamie Hatcher chats with Peace Corps director Ron Tschetter after his discussion about the Peace Corps legacy Wednesday at Montana State University. Hatcher served with the Peace Corps in Madagascar. (Kelly Gorham, MSU photo)    High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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The director of the Peace Corps, Ron Tschetter, visited Montana State University on Wednesday to thank the university for its history of volunteerism with the international aid organization.

Tschetter spoke to a crowd of about 30 people in the Strand Union Building's Leigh Lounge. The director, a former Peace Corps volunteer himself, said MSU consistently ranks among the top 25 medium-sized universities for producing Peace Corps volunteers.

"We again thank you for your contributions and your support of the Peace Corps in a very meaningful way and we look forward to continuing that relationship," Tschetter said.

Since the organization was founded in 1961, MSU has provided 388 of the state's total volunteers.

Carina Beck, director of career services at MSU, which sponsored Tschetter's visit, said that many students at MSU today are looking for volunteer opportunities like the Peace Corps.

"I think there's a real sense of global consciousness," she said. "For a certain section of our students, it really provides them with the opportunity to be altruistic."

Beck said that attitude of service is part and parcel with the mission of a land grant university like MSU.

Allen Yarnell, vice president of student affairs, received a plaque from Tschetter honoring MSU's contribution to the Peace Corps.

Yarnell who was in college when the Peace Corps started, said that it has always been the opportunity to serve more than any desire for international travel or adventure that draws college-aged volunteers to the Peace Corps.

"It's the idea of young people providing service for a country and getting to know about that country, and vice versa, letting that country know about the U.S. that really draws them in."

That was certainly true for Jamie Hatcher, a 2004 MSU graduate who just returned from a two-year Peace Corps assignment in Madagascar. Hatcher decided to join the Peace Corps after spending a year volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal.

"When I came back from that, I started thinking about the real world and getting a job and decided that I really wanted to help people in other countries because I had such a good experience in Nepal," said Hatcher, who graduated with a degree in health and human development.

Hatcher spent the two-years volunteering in a community clinic, teaching the locals about hygiene, nutrition, AIDS and family planning. She said it was a life-changing experience.

"I think I've grown up a lot in a lot of ways," she said. "It's definitely changed the direction that I want to take my life. I'm more interested in working internationally now than I was before."

After Tschetter's talk, Hatcher had a chance to meet 2008 MSU elementary education graduate Meriah Cory, who is what the Peace Corps calls a "nom," a newly nominated volunteer awaiting deployment.

Cory will travel to Kazakhstan in August to work in education, helping special needs children.

She said that she has always been interested in international work but didn't want to be the rich American swooping in on a white horse to help the unfortunate.

"The Peace Corps is a great way to get into a community and be accepted within that community," Cory said. "And Yes, you'll still be viewed as a rich American, but it's a lot less."

Cory said that Bozeman and MSU have a strong sense of service and community.

"Bozeman has a great service mentality and huge programs that a lot of other communities don't have, and I think MSU is a part of that because we have so many college-aged students who have skills and can use them."

And while the Peace Corps is now pushing to get more volunteers over age 50 to bring their experience and expertise into the Corps, Tschetter said college-aged volunteers like Hatcher and Cory will always make up the heart of the Peace Corps.

"They bring wisdom, insight, enthusiasm and passion," he said. "They bring all the components you can imagine."

Contact: Office of Career Services, (406) 994-4353 or careers@montana.edu