Peace Corps director Jody Olsen visits UVU campus


Peace Corps director and Utah native Jody Olsen commended UVU on its notable creativity, internationalism, and entrepreneurial spirit during her visit to campus on Thursday, June 13.

"I love Utah Valley University," Dr. Olsen said after her brief tour of the Roots of Knowledge exhibit. "I've watched the growth of UVU overall and the iterations of its name changes, and now it's the largest public university in Utah."

Her visit was centered around highlighting the benefits that the Peace Corps has to offer to both students and alumni. She said, "For us, it's all about encouraging students here at UVU to join the Peace Corps because of all the creativity that happens here, the internationalism that is here, the many first-generation Americans that are here, the people who speak a lot of languages that are here, and the entrepreneurial spirit. They are perfect to take two years and join the Peace Corps."

Since the 1961 founding of the organization, there have been 295 UVU alumni who have volunteered with the Peace Corps. Currently, there are two UVU alumni serving, one of whom is 26 year-old Tessa Lapray, from South Jordan.

Lapray obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics and said of her time at UVU, "I didn't quite know where my education would take me, but I finished feeling determined and prepared to pursue opportunities abroad. I had to continue learning about the world. I wanted to experience a new culture, offer a helping hand or a new prospective, and learn about myself in a place where everything I thought I knew would be challenged."

Following her graduation in 2016, Lapray made the decision to join the Peace Corps and currently serves in Myanmar as an English education volunteer. She is a part of the second group of volunteers to serve two full years in the country.

"I live in a small rural community in the southeastern part of the country," Lapray said. "I work with local counterparts to improve teaching methods and increase the language capacity of teachers and students. In addition to English teaching, I am helping set up a computer lab at the school, and assisting a local community group with an environmental awareness campaign. Myanmar is a beautiful country with incredible people. I am beyond grateful to be welcomed into this little corner of the world."

According to Dr. Olsen, service in the Peace Corps is more critical now than it ever has been. She also expressed the value the organization has to offer students and alumni. “Talk about people-to-people diplomacy, people-to-people learning, people-to-people giving, culture, language, and understanding," Olsen said. "Return volunteers become leaders, they go into academia, they go into business, they go into public service — they really give back to the United States after their time in the Peace Corps."

To date, there are 141 countries that have been beneficiaries of the Peace Corps. The organization proves to be one that not only impacts positively the lives of so many around the world, but creates a sense of tight-knit community. Dr. Olsen concluded her thoughts by commenting, "We are bringing communities around the world home and we’re continuing to go back to those communities. When we care about people, we care about communities, and when we understand their cultures we can solve difficult problems."
Students or alumni interested in becoming involved in the Peace Corps should visit or