Dr. Jody Olsen recently learned about The College of Idaho by way of the best exposure possible for the College: its alumni. From her home base in Washington D.C. she has worked with some recent graduates and witnessed their dedication to service up close.
So the Director of the Peace Corps had to come to the College to see it first-hand with her own eyes.
“The College of Idaho has a reputation that has out-sized its size,” Olsen said during her visit to the Caldwell campus earlier this week. “Four currently-serving volunteers for a school of this size is very unusual.”
Olsen and other members of the Peace Corps staff sat down with several leaders at the College, including co-president Jim Everett and Dean of Students Paul Bennion. The conversation focused on partnership and collaboration between the Peace Corps and the College. Olsen, with an extensive background with the Peace Corps and working in higher education, came away impressed.
“What’s exciting in thinking about this is the impact The College of Idaho has way beyond the size of the College,” Olsen said. “When you think about, there are 3,000 colleges and universities, and we have Peace Corps volunteers every year that might come from maybe 900 to 1,000 different colleges and universities. We just talked about two College of Idaho alums and what they’re doing and the impact that they’re having … it says something about the education here.”
The alums discussed were Anna Mansfield ’13 and Caitlin Fellows ’16. In February, Mansfield joined Olsen and several other dignitaries in the Oval Office with President Trump for the signing ceremony for the Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative memorandum.
“Anna thrived here (at The College of Idaho), as she told me,” Olsen said with a smile. “It made it very easy for her to become a Peace Corps volunteer.”
Fellows, who is currently serving in Senegal, is a native of Utah. Before coming to Idaho, Olsen made a stop in the Beehive State and talked about Fellows and her work in the African nation during a speech. Fellows’ parents and grandparents were in attendance at the event.
After retiring from the University of Maryland – Baltimore, Olsen returned to the Peace Corps as the Director in 2018. She said it’s the tie between the Peace Corps and higher education that makes her visits to many campuses, like the one she made to Caldwell this week, even more special. It’s not just about recruiting, it’s about learning how two sides can help each other and help students, all while helping the global community.
“What prepares a student to be a good Peace Corps volunteer, prepares a student for life,” Olsen said. “I feel that we’re a partner with universities and colleges in preparing students for the distinct aspects of life and the two happen to go together.”
The College of Idaho has a 128-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.