George Mason a Top Producer of Peace Corps Volunteers

Posted: June 23, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

In 2004, George Mason moved up three spots to no.12 on the Peace Corps’ mid-Atlantic region’s list of the top 20 volunteer-producing colleges and universities, and it is in the top 100 nationally. Currently, there are 25 George Mason alumni serving overseas, up 25 percent from 2003. More than 134 George Mason graduates have served or are serving worldwide since the Peace Corps was established in 1961.

Nicholas Vilelle (BA ’02, MA ’03) is the latest George Mason alum to depart for a Peace Corps assignment. He left June 11 for a post in Togo as a small business development volunteer. Vilelle will work as an advisor to savings and credit organizations, training local residents in business practices and advising youth in basic business. He has degrees in psychology and industrial/organizational psychology, and also worked at the Army Research Institute in Alexandria, Va. He plans to document his Peace Corps experience on his web site.

Four more George Mason graduates are preparing for assignments in Togo, Moldova, and Ghana. One of them, Ryan Stachelski, will be departing for Ghana in September to work on an agro economics project. He graduated from George Mason with a BS in Economics in 2002 and is currently a master’s international student at Illinois State University, where he is earning his master’s degree in economics and will do his fieldwork as a Peace Corps volunteer.

“One key role that George Mason played in helping make the decision to go to the Peace Corps was the opportunity for study abroad,” Stachelski says. “In the summer of 2002, I went with Bob Shepherd and a group of students to China and Tibet. It was one of the highlights of my life. Dr. Shepherd is a former Peace Corps volunteer who served in Nepal. I always thought about being a Peace Corps volunteer before that trip, but Dr. Shepherd made me think that I could be successful at it. He really gave me the confidence to move forward with that dream.”

Stachelski plans to pursue a PhD in development studies after his Peace Corps experience, with the goal of a career in international policy analysis working for an organization such as the UN, World Bank, or other international nongovernmental organization.

The Peace Corps’ mid-Atlantic region includes Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. Nearly 170,000 volunteers have served in 137 countries since the Peace Corps was established. Today, more than 7,500 volunteers serve in programs to address business development, health and HIV/AIDS, the environment, education, agriculture, and information technology.

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