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>  News Releases >   2006 >   September

A commitment to the Corps: Dartmouth recognized for production of Peace Corps volunteers

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 09/27/06 • Steven J. Smith • (603) 646-3661

Representatives of Dartmouth and the Peace Corps gathered for a reception in the Treasure Room of Baker Library on Sept. 25 to celebrate the College's current position as the Peace Corps' top-producing institution in the category of small colleges and universities. The reception was held to personally recognize the news first released by the Peace Corps in January 2006. With 37 alumni serving, Dartmouth has even more volunteers than some institutions in the medium-size category (5,001-15,000 undergraduates) such as fellow Ivy-league schools Harvard and Yale.

Peace Corps
From left to right: Emanuel (Skip) Sturman '70, James DeRosa, Dan Nelson '75, and John Rassias (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

James Arena-DeRosa, director of the New England Regional Office of the Peace Corps, presented Acting Dean of the College Dan Nelson '75 with a 2006 Peace Corps Global Service Award. "Dartmouth's participation is even more impressive considering students have so many other options - Fulbright Programs, Marshall and Rhodes Scholarships - to choose from," said Arena-DeRosa. "The spirit of public service is palpable here."

Nelson noted that 572 Dartmouth students have served as Peace Corps volunteers since 1961. He said he felt there were four main reasons - sense of international awareness, emphasis on foreign language, passion for community service, desire for a challenge - that so many Dartmouth students have volunteered. Nelson said this sentiment hearkens back to the days when John Sloan Dickey, Dartmouth's 12th president, regularly told students, "The world's troubles are your troubles."

Director of Career Services Emanuel (Skip) Sturman '70 thanked members of his office and longtime Peace Corps recruiters for their hard work that helped establish such a strong relationship. Sturman said he was also pleased to see the increasing trend of volunteerism on campus. "I'm delighted that so many of our graduates choose to give back to society and promote cross-cultural relationships by working for the Peace Corps," he said. "I'm just so pleased when students follow their passions, which seems to be happening more and more."

A name mentioned throughout the reception, and a guest speaker, was John Rassias, the William R. Kenan Professor of French and Italian, founder of the Rassias Foundation, and member of the Dartmouth faculty since 1965. Rassias has worked with the Peace Corps since 1964, and he has served as director of language programs, consultant, and general troubleshooter. He has introduced his unique method of teaching to hundreds of volunteers and teachers of volunteers. The Rassias method relies on the belief that language acquisition and retention are best achieved when students are continuously physically and emotionally involved in classroom activities. Arena-DeRosa referred to Rassias as "the godfather of the Peace Corps language immersion program."

In discussing his Peace Corps experience in Panama from 1969-1971, Sherwood Guernsey '68, who attended the reception, mentioned the influence of Rassias. "Even though I didn't meet him, I benefited from the fantastic program," says Guernsey, who volunteered with his wife, Carol Guernsey. "I was fluent in Spanish after three months." Guernsey also credits his time at Dartmouth, during which he participated in a semester in Mexico, for stirring him to volunteer. "I treasure the Dartmouth experience because it opened up a whole world I hadn't been exposed to. It inspired me to learn more." Guernsey took two years off from his law practice from 1996-1998 to work for the Peace Corps. He developed programs to help support returning volunteers.

Alumna Lelia Mellen '86 said that a specific faculty member, the late professor of geography Robert E. Huke, encouraged her to volunteer. "My parents thought I was crazy," Mellen says, "but Bob kept saying I should do it." Among many tasks, Mellen helped villagers grow rice in Sierra Leone from 1986-1987. Mellen said her Peace Corps experience inspired her to do what she does today. She is the director of the National Parks Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program in Woodstock, Vermont. "I look back on my experience as so important to my current work," she said.

Dartmouth alumni are currently serving in the Peace Corps in Benin, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guinea, Kyrgyz Republic, Mali, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Senegal and Uganda on projects related to environmental education, health and water sanitation, English teaching, math teaching, business advising and development, agriculture and forestry.

Arena-DeRosa said that the Peace Corps participants should be treasured for their energy, education, and sense of service. "Today's volunteers are the best of what America has to offer," he said.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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