May 13, 2020

SIU Carbondale recognized as a Peace Corps 2020 Top College

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s longstanding commitment to community service has earned SIU national recognition with a spot on the Peace Corps’ 2020 Top Colleges list.

This is the first time the university has been featured on the agency’s list. President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961.

Hundreds of Salukis have served

SIU is ranked No. 19 among institutions with 5,000 to 15,000 undergraduate students. Before the Peace Corps evacuated all volunteers due to COVID-19 this spring, there were 18 SIU alumni serving in a variety of locales across the globe, according to Michael Gall, senior Peace Corps recruiter.

Almost 700 SIU graduates are among the 240,000 Americans who have served in 142 countries worldwide in nearly 60 years.

“SIU has a long-standing relationship with the Peace Corps,” said Jaime Conley-Holt, director of SIU’s Career Development Center. “The program allows students the opportunity to apply skills they have learned in the classroom to aid other countries and the relationship the students build with the citizens of the world through the Peace Corps program can shape who they are for the rest of their lives.

“The Career Development Center does its best to help bring these opportunities to the students at SIU by helping the Peace Corps recruiters connect with faculty, staff and students while they are on campus,” she continued. “We have found that constituents at SIU are not only receptive, but excited about the opportunities the Peace Corps provides.”

History of volunteerism

Giving to others is intrinsic to the Saluki nation, according to Sarah Marbes, coordinator of the Center for Service-Learning and Volunteerism.

“I’m impressed every day by our students’ commitment to volunteerism,” Marbes said. “They actively work to uplift the community by helping at local non-profits, schools and other agencies.”

Students volunteered 25,704 hours to assist more than 60 local organizations last year. Marbes said totals haven’t been tabulated for this academic year as yet but volunteerism was on track to match or exceed those numbers before the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-in-place protocols.

“Programs like the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps are a way for students to take their dedication and skills to a new level,” Marbes said. “I think this recognition from the Peace Corps shows that SIU is effectively preparing and motivating students for a lifetime of civic and global engagement.”

SIU prepares for service and success

Linda Pinkus, a 1989 healthcare management graduate, is one of the SIU alumni who was serving in the Peace Corps in Moldova until she was evacuated due the pandemic.

“My education at SIU Carbondale not only provided me with the technical skills I need to carry out my work as a health education volunteer in Central Moldova, but also gave me the integrity and self-confidence to be the best person I can be,” Pinkus said. “I believe it is my civic duty to be of service to those less fortunate than myself. The Peace Corps and its mission to promote world peace and friendship is an excellent vehicle to use my professional skills and be of service.”

People and nations the world over have been the beneficiaries of the dedication and service provided by SIU graduates, Gall said.

“At its heart, the Peace Corps is about peace and friendship. Volunteers have their greatest impact when they open up to and connect with the people they are serving,” Gall said. “The relationships volunteers form with their communities are both a goal of Peace Corps and the drivers of developing successful projects.”