University of Iowa crucial for recruiting “best and brightest” to Peace Corps

peace corps
Liz Wildenberg de Hernandez (Associate Director, UI Study Abroad), Brad Merryman, Meredith Mahy Gall (UI Peace Corps representative)

By Shereena Honary

Brad Merryman will tell you he has the best job in the world. After 25 years in the IT industry, he hung up his hat and volunteered in Costa Rica through the Peace Corps. Just a few short months after returning to the U.S., Merryman was honored to accept the Midwest Regional Manager position with the Peace Corps, where he now oversees the recruitment of volunteers throughout a region spanning 11 states. Merryman, a Naperville, IL native, says that the best part is being on the team that inspires people to learn about Peace Corps and make the decision to apply.

The past fall semester, Merryman set out from the Midwest Regional office based in Chicago to visit the University of Iowa. The state of Iowa and the University of Iowa in particular hold an important relationship with the Peace Corps because of the impressive numbers of volunteers it has fostered.

“2,284 to be precise,” says Merryman of the Iowa residents who have served the Peace Corps over the past 50 years since its inception. “That’s a pretty significant number,” he says. Currently, 80 Iowa residents are volunteering overseas, and 22 of those volunteers are University of Iowa students.

This number is expected to keep growing now that the new, shorter application process is in place. Anyone familiar with the past application process can attest to a hefty 8 hour time commitment and 60-plus pages required to fill out. “The process now?” asks Merryman, “One hour or less,” he says, pausing to let the good news sink in.

In addition to this change is that interested volunteers may now apply to their region of choice where they feel they may best contribute their skills, or, develop their skills further. A student studying Spanish with a career path set in agriculture can search the Peace Corps website for positions in Spanish-speaking regions where knowledge of agriculture would benefit the project.

Aside from agriculture, the Peace Corps serves other specialized areas, including: education, environment, health, youth in development, and business/economics. The top-quality programs offered at the University of Iowa fit well these specialty areas, thereby making Iowa an important partner for recruiting “the best and the brightest” volunteers desired by the Peace Corps.

“It’s really wonderful for anybody, particularly students who are building their life plans after graduation,” says Merryman of the updates to the application process. It’s true that any person volunteering with the Peace Corps, regardless of placement, will develop personal and professional skills beyond the imaginable. But with the new system in place, interested volunteers have a bit more agency over the skills they want to contribute and develop for their future.

Making a difference is key to the Peace Corps mission, and this isn’t limited to the two year period spent overseas. The contributions a returned Peace Corps volunteer continues to make once back home are equally impressive and last a lifetime. “Almost every volunteer coming back to the states after Peace Corps service makes a difference in the community that they land,” says Merryman.

Although Merryman and his team are up in Chicago, University of Iowa students and Iowa City residents need not look further than the University Capitol Centre in downtown Iowa City. Our Peace Corps campus recruiter, Meredith Mahy Gall, is available within the International Programs offices. Meredith is an excellent resource for information and application assistance, or to chat up about her personal experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer.

For information about contacting Meredith, please visit
UI Peace Corps
International Programs 1111 University Capitol Centre
Iowa City, IA 52242
319.335.0347
peacecorps@uiowa.edu

Steps to take to get involved:    

  • Attend a Peace Corps Information Session and other Peace Corps events.
  • Meet with the UI Peace Corps Representative during her walk-in hours or by appointment
  • Become a fan on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/UIPeaceCorps to stay up to date with the latest UI Peace Corps news or join the UI Peace Corps email list by emailing peacecorps@uiowa.edu

For more information about the Peace Corps:
Visit www.peacecorps.gov

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