Doctoral student Helen Jolly has been named campus recruitment officer for the Peace Corps as Stony Brook becomes the first SUNY school to hire a Peace Corps recruiter.
Formerly, the Peace Corps was represented at Stony Brook by its New York Regional Office. Creating a part-time position on campus for Helen will enhance student awareness of the organization’s objectives and bolster the number of applicants, said Career Center Director Marianna Savoca.
The position developed in part because former Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams visited Stony Brook in 2011, promoting the Peace Corps’ benefits to an enthusiastic student body in a packed room.
Savoca wrote a grant and the New York Regional Office approved it, funding the position. Following a search, Helen was hired.
“It was serendipitous,” Helen said of landing the job. A friend saw a post about the job on Facebook and sent Helen the link. Two weeks later, Helen was notified that the position was hers.
Helen’s credentials made her an ideal candidate — she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer from 2003 to 2005 in Guatemala, where she developed and implemented vaccination schedules for local livestock, organized women’s groups to promote income-generating small animal projects, trained individuals in basic animal medicine, and improved basic livestock nutrition.
Her connection to Stony Brook also made her an excellent fit. Helen enrolled at the University in 2006, earning her MA in anthropology in 2009. She is pursuing a PhD in sociology. Her dissertation project, which she hopes to complete within two years, explores global access to HIV medications.
The daughter of two research scientists, Helen said she knew that she wanted to join the Peace Corps while in middle school. Her mother, who was born on a dairy farm in the Midwest, became a research scientist, but stressed the importance of becoming involved in 4-H, where Helen gained experience raising farm animals as a food source rather than as pets.
Long before Helen applied for the Peace Corps, she had administered vaccinations and dewormings. She has always enjoyed helping others and volunteering at hospitals and veterinary offices.
“Growing up, I also wanted to be a National Geographic explorer, no matter where I was,” she said about growing up in the Midwest and Southern United States.
“But the Peace Corps, with its history of building relationships between the United States and other peoples of the world, really appealed to me,” she said.
When she applied, Helen said she was qualified to teach either English or take on sustainable agricultural projects. The Peace Corps decided to utilize her agricultural background, sending her for three months of specialized training, which included several hours of Spanish lessons per day.
She adjusted readily to rural life in the Northeastern Guatemalan community that became her home for more than two years.
“I learned not to take things for granted, particularly having running water and electricity,” Helen said.
She also gained valuable subsistence skills from village women, such as how to make a Dutch oven using a large stock pot, or baking pumpkin muffins in recycled tuna cans.
At Stony Brook, Helen’s mission will be to convey a sense of excitement and purpose about the Peace Corps to students. To do so, she will take a multifaceted approach, holding meetings and workshops, setting up a table at Career Fairs, and visiting classes to deliver short presentations.
A total of 200 Stony Brook graduates have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. Six alumni from Stony Brook are currently serving in Azerbaijan, Botswana, the Dominican Republic, Panama, the Philippines and Zambia as health, education, environment and youth development volunteers.
Helen’s office hours at the Career Center are 10:00 am – 12:00 noon every Monday, or by appointment.
The Career Center has also set up a PeaceCorps@stonybrook.edu email account for all public, student and alumni inquiries.
— Glenn Jochum