Not every Cal Poly student would be so bold as to leave their way of life behind for more than two years to travel to a foreign country in need. But this year, 46 students are working to promote world peace and friendship through the Peace Corps.
Administrative officials, Peace Corps alumni and recruiters were all in attendance Tuesday for the dedication of the new Peace Pole which celebrates the countless Cal Poly men and women who provided their services to the organization.
“We’re really proud to have that symbol,” said Robert Detweiler, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “(Cal Poly’s) learn-by-doing volunteer commitment fits very nicely.”
The new pole stands near the mustang statue between the University Union and the Administration building and proclaims “May peace prevail on Earth” in four languages: English, Spanish, Mandarin and Chumash.
Jill Andrews, the western regional manager for the Peace Corps said each of the languages holds a particular significance. The Spanish translation marks the California heritage and the involvement of the Peace Corps, in Central and South America; Mandarin, because it is a fast-growing language and English because it is taught as a second language in China by volunteers; and Chumash as a tribute to a language that is indigenous to the area of San Luis Obispo.
Each year a peace pole is dedicated to the top school, Andrews said. “In this region, Cal Poly is the top school.”
This year, the 46 Cal Poly volunteers propelled the university to the No. 22 spot of top universities in the nation to recruit students and is ranked above universities such as the Universities of California at Davis and Santa Barbara, both of which have large programs. The ranking also marks the first time Cal Poly has been among the top 25.
The Peace Corps is an organization which strives to build world peace and friendship by sending Americans to countries that have invited the Peace Corps to get involved. Though it is an international program, Shellye Clark, the new regional recruiter for the San Luis Obispo area, said most volunteers travel to Latin America or Africa.
Volunteers are assigned tasks based on their skills. These can include anything from education, health, business development, environment or agriculture. Cal Poly provides students with the necessary skills to accomplish many of these tasks, Andrews said; noting in particular the agriculture students. Of the Southern California region which she oversees, Cal Poly is one of the few universities that has agriculture students.
“There are also great engineers, as well as nutrition grads who are improving health all over the world,” she said.
Clark’s plans are to draw even more majors into the program.
“I’m hoping to get a lot more diverse volunteers,” she said, listing animal science and education as beneficial majors.
Even some soon-to-be Peace Corps volunteers were in attendance. Penny Porter, a Cal Poly alumna, will travel to Armenia in June to serve as a teacher-trainer.
“It’s really my background – it’s perfect for me,” she said.
She said she has done a lot of reading on Armenian history in preparation for her trip, though surviving in a foreign country is the least of her worries. She could be found on Tuesday listening to the experiences of veteran volunteers and asking if anyone would take care of her cat for the next two years.
“I want to make the biggest splash with my little rock – I want to do something for the world,” she said. “The goal is to promote peace and that’s the only way it happens is one-on-one.”
For more information about the Peace Corps, visit the Web site at www.peacecorps.gov. Recruiters are available to talk to in the Kennedy Library, Room 207 on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.