University of Rochester

Peace Corps on Campus: Recruiter Now Working at Career Center

February 24, 2003

A Study Abroad experience in Kenya and two years in the Peace Corps in Malawi gave graduate student Joseph Lanning exceptional preparation as Peace Corps regional recruiter on campus-a first at the College.

Lanning counsels students who are considering a Peace Corps experience and handles the first round of interviews for prospective volunteers. He also travels to other colleges in Western New York to make the case for the value of committing time to the Peace Corps.

"I get paid to talk about the amazing experience I had in Africa and to help other people get on track for a similar experience," he says. "For me, it's a good feeling to know that there is a desire by so many students to go abroad, to go to developing countries, and to learn."

Since Lanning started his recruiting work in September, he's nearly doubled the number of Peace Corps applicants from the region at this time last year. In 2002, there were 52 nominations stretching from here to Buffalo.

The University of Rochester has had a close and productive association with the Peace Corps for years. More than 300 Rochester alumni have joined the ranks of volunteers since the Peace Corps began its mission to promote world peace and sustainable development in 1961. The University rates among the top 10 small colleges and universities in the number of graduates who make the commitment.

"Rochester's relationship with the Peace Corps has been historically positive, and we have long been perceived as a 'target school,' " says Burton Nadler, assistant dean and Career Center director. "Having one of only a dozen on-campus recruiters nationwide reveals how much the Peace Corps thinks of our institution. I'm certain this will ensure positive outcomes for many years to come."

Office work and travel easily fill the part-time hours the job allows. The rest of Lanning's time on campus is spent pursuing a master's degree in global history. He graduated from the College in 2000 with a major in anthropology and a minor in women's studies. Not only is the campus a familiar place for him, but as an undergraduate he gained a reputation as a community service activist and was known for the nonprofit foundation he created to aid students in the developing world.

After he returned from studying in Kenya his junior year, Lanning founded the World Education Fund for Women, which raises money to support young women who can't afford an education or who are discouraged from going to school. Five girls already have benefited with money for tuition, books, and school uniforms.

"We're looking to grow and incorporate more skills training," he says. "Even if girls go to school, there's a high likelihood that they're not going to get a job or go to college. If they learn tailoring or tinsmithing, health education about HIV/AIDS and nutrition-these are skills they can use and bring back to the village." The foundation has support from current Rochester students and fundraisers are ongoing.

Since Africa is close to his mind and heart, Lanning was instrumental in planning a two-week winter break trip to Gowa, Malawi, where he was assigned as a Peace Corps health worker. A dozen students and staff traveled there to get exposure to the culture, connect with families, and see how people live and work.

"I want to give many other people the same chance I had to learn the realities of the world on their own," Lanning emphasizes. "Look beyond what CNN gives you and what the Internet offers. Develop your own view on issues."