More Chicago college grads make peace across cultures

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by Catherine Guiles
Jan 16, 2008

After working with a refugee resettlement agency in Chicago, University of Chicago graduate Christian Doll said, he decided to pursue his interest in human rights overseas.

So he did what many alumni from his school have done: He joined the Peace Corps.

Doll is set to leave in February to teach English in Uganda.

“I thought doing the Peace Corps was a way to do cross-cultural work in a way that the classroom wasn’t,” said Doll, who graduated in 2006 and received a master’s degree in 2007.

The University of Chicago, along with Northwestern University and Wheaton College, made the Peace Corps’ list, released this week, of top volunteer-producing campuses.

The University of Chicago was first in the small-schools category with 34 current alumni volunteers. Wheaton appeared on the small-schools list for the first time, coming in a seven-way tie for No. 24 with 14.

Northwestern tied for No. 12 among medium-sized schools with 29.

At the University of Chicago, “Most students are coming to the university with a background in service,” said Wallace Goode, director of the university’s Community Service Center and associate dean of students.

The university has responded by marketing the Peace Corps to students interested in nonprofit work, said Goode, himself a former volunteer.

That field attracted Wheaton graduate Leslie Merzig, a volunteer in northern Cameroon since 2006.

Merzig, who graduated in 2002, is working to encourage better crop production by getting people to plant trees.

“I wanted to try living and working overseas in a development capacity,” she said.” Peace Corps is a fabulous way to do that. It’s a low-cost probe into this life.”

She has also learned some personal lessons.

“My Muslim friends are very respectful,” Merzig said. “I’m constantly aware of Muslim prayer time [five times a day]. It’s been really challenging to me about how I follow my [Christian] faith.”

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