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B. Valentine.

Brian Valentine earned his undergraduate degree at the U in 1999 and joined the Peace Corps in 2003.

U graduates answer the call

School ranks among top 10 with alumni serving in Peace Corps

By Jeff Falk

June 5, 2006

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the Peace Corps, an organization that President John F. Kennedy established in 1961 to promote peace and friendship throughout the world. He asked Americans to journey abroad-not as tourists, but as global citizens.

This year, 64 University alums are representing the United States by serving as Peace Corps volunteers. According to Peace Corps data, the University ranked 10th among large colleges in 2005 in the number of undergraduates who enter the Peace Corps and seventh in number of volunteers with graduate degrees.

Brian Valentine earned his undergraduate degree in recreation management at the U in the fall of 1999. He then went on to earn a master's degree in park, recreation and tourism resources at Michigan State University. In May 2003, he entered the Peace Corps and served 27 months in Guatemala.

"... I always remember the one thing [she] told me. She said that if you don't push yourself, if you don't put yourself in uncomfortable situations, you won't grow," Valentine recalls.

Valentine was assigned to the Peace Corps Guatemala ag-forestry project and lived in the northwestern province of San Marcos, a rural mountainous region close to the Mexican border.

There he worked shoulder-to-shoulder with local community members on various projects, including building pest management structures to prevent June bugs from eating corn crops and laying their eggs. And as most farms are built on hillsides, Valentine helped find ways to prevent erosion and promote sustainable agriculture practices.

Valentine says his association with the Peace Corps built an invaluable bridge to the local communities. "If you were introduced into a community and folks knew you were coming from [the Peace Corps], it was much easier to promote ideas and build a working relationship," Valentine says.

Valentine traces his motivation to join the Peace Corps back to University of Minnesota Forest Resources professor Dorothy Anderson, his former advisor. "... I always remember the one thing [she] told me. She said that if you don't push yourself, if you don't put yourself in uncomfortable situations, you won't grow," Valentine recalls.

Valentine encourages current University students to join the Peace Corps. "It's an opportunity... to build friendships and to experience a part of the world [in a way] that you don't perhaps necessarily get from studying abroad. I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to improve myself and to learn what I'm capable of doing in life," he says.

After completing his service in July 2005, Valentine began work as a National Park Service guide at the St. Paul Science Museum National Park Service Visitor Center. He'd love to sign up for another Peace Corps mission upon retirement.