Budget cuts force Peace Corps to be more selective

Budget cuts with Peace Corps affect MU students who don't fit targeted slots
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 | 5:06 p.m. CDT

Mark Siebenaler graduated from MU in May with a dual major in Spanish and wildlife sciences. In early January, he heads to Guatemala to join an environmental program with the Peace Corps.

“I found about it (the Peace Corps) almost four years ago,” Siebenaler said. “It offered exactly what I was looking for.”

Siebenaler, who now lives in Arizona, said his final paperwork is due any day now.

“The Peace Corps was a great outlook to work and gain experience,” he said. “It lets me look ahead to my future.”

Siebenaler had the skills needed to work in underdeveloped countries, but the severe economic downturn is forcing the Peace Corps to be more selective.

Earlier this month, budget cuts forced the organization to put assignments for 400 volunteers on hold for six to nine months, as previously reported in the L.A. Times. Unlike Siebenaler, those most affected by this cut don't fill targeted positions.

“The Peace Corps too is affected by the economic status of the U.S.,” said Christine Torres, public affairs specialist for the Peace Corps' regional office in Chicago.

Targeted positions include majors in French, education, agriculture, veterinary medicine and environmental education. Those who can teach English as a second language are also in demand, said Tony White, MU’s campus recruiter.

The competitive nature of the Peace Corps' application process allows the organization to pursue specific qualifications.

Becca Allgire, who will graduate from MU in December with a double major in Spanish and sociology, is also on track for an assignment in Latin America. She was nominated through the regional office and expects an official invitation to arrive soon.

“I’ve wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country for a very long time,” Allgire said.

Jesse and Lisa Stauffer, who graduated last year, are already on assignment in Paraguay. Jesse majored in plant science at MU , and Lisa graduated from Moberly Community College with a degree in early childhood development, Torres said.

The process of joining the Peace Corps starts with an online application sent 12 months before an applicant plans to depart. Then the application goes to the regional office.

Once the application is received, a formal interview is conducted, followed by a recommendation sent to Washington and finally an invitation, White said.

MU has 29 alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps and 864 graduates who have served in Peace Corps since 1961, according to Torres.

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