FIU rose two spots to No. 6 nationally in the Peace Corps’ latest ranking of volunteer-producing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI).
With 16 alumni actively serving in the Peace Corps, 2016 marked the fifth consecutive year FIU was ranked among the top 10 HSIs. Since FIU opened its doors in 1972, 207 alumni have served in the Peace Corps, the agency said.
One alumna is Caryn Lavernia, the university’s assistant vice president for Engagement, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer half-way across the world from 2005 to 2008.
“FIU gave me an educational foundation and the global perspective that allowed me to successfully navigate the beginning of my career and my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Vanuatu,” she said. “The immersion into Ni-Vanuatu culture came somewhat easier for me thanks in part to my Cuban roots and in part to the truly international environment of FIU. It also helped that puerco asado is used to celebrate the holidays in Vanuatu just as in Miami.”
All FIU students take at least two global learning courses as part of the university’s award-winning Global Learning for Global Citizenship initiative that helps them to develop globally-focused problem solving skills needed for the classroom and the work force.
Lavernia credits the lessons learned as an FIU student for helping her to develop authentic relationships within the Vanuatu community and to help one village develop an ecotourism enterprise.
Since 2014, FIU has worked to further improve the readiness of alumni who choose to apply for service in the Peace Corps through the Peace Corps Prep program. Created through a partnership with the Peace Corps, the program connects students with returned Peace Corps volunteers who serve as mentors and calls on students to complete additional foreign language and global learning courses.
Students must also complete a global engagement project in South Florida that helps them develop the skills they would need to implement projects while serving abroad, said Nannette Boza, 21, chair of the student committee for Peace Corps Prep.
“We want to give students the experience of going out and getting things done, of learning how to make connections, of talking to people, having ideas and presenting them to organizations because this is what they’ll being doing on a larger scale when they’re in the Peace Corps,” said Boza, who plans to work on educational projects in Asia when she enters the Peace Corps. “When you get to a rural area you will have to build things from the ground up.”
The Peace Corps has taken notice.
“With the university’s commitment to global learning, FIU graduates are well qualified for Peace Corps service, and the Peace Corps Prep program helps to ensure that FIU undergraduates have the academic credentials to become effective Peace Corps volunteers,” said Miami-based Peace Corps Recruiter Steve Hunsicker.