University of Arizona seniors Gina Aniano and Ruth Byrnes have been selected to serve in the Peace Corps following graduation this spring. They are the first students to complete UA’s Peace Corps Prep program, which launched in February 2018.
Housed in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Peace Corps Prep is an undergraduate program that helps students develop and document core competencies valued by the Peace Corps and other employers. It is open to all majors and is designed to increase participants’ competitiveness for Peace Corps service – and the global workforce – by pairing coursework with sector-related service and professional development opportunities.
“Many students today are passionate about service and making a difference in the world,” Peace Corps Prep Program Coordinator Tammy Orr said. “Through the UA’s prep program, students can develop skills specifically targeted to Peace Corps service and careers in the international development and service communities.”
Aniano is majoring in psychology with a minor in gender and women’s studies. She will serve as a youth development facilitator in the Philippines, where she will work to create empowerment projects for at-risk youth populations, such as girls who have been physically or sexually abused.
“Through my coursework and an internship with the Women and Gender Resource Center on campus, I became very aware of the systemic injustices against women and marginalized people on a global scale,” Aniano said. “After hearing someone talk about the Peace Corps and the various projects volunteers have that are empowering women, I began to research the program and felt it would be a perfect fit for me and my career goals.”
After completion of her two-year Peace Corps term, Aniano plans to return to school to become a nurse practitioner in psychiatry, and then pursue a doctorate in psychology.
Byrnes is majoring in global studies with a minor in government and public policy. She will serve in Morocco as a youth development specialist, where she will work alongside local partners to train and mentor youth to improve their life skills, including communication, self-concept and decision-making.
As an undergraduate, Byrnes started the Amnesty International University of Arizona Club to advocate for global human rights and support Amnesty priority campaigns. She also served as a Arizona Global Ambassador and studied abroad in Guatemala, where she volunteered for the summer at Casa Jackson Hospital for Malnourished Children in Antigua.
“I have always known that I wanted to pursue an international career in grassroots service, community development and peace building,” said Byrnes. “Ever since high school, when I first heard about the Peace Corps, I have felt strongly about that organization being the right choice for me.”
The Peace Corps, established in 1961 by former President John F. Kennedy, is a volunteer program administered by the U.S. government to send Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. To date, 1,639 UA graduates have volunteered, with 46 alumni currently serving.