Grinnellians often pursue service work following college, applying for jobs with organizations ranging from Americorps and Lutheran Volunteer Corps to Teach for America and the Peace Corps. Some don’t realize that there are opportunities much “closer” to home: Grinnell Corps.

Grinnell Corps, an organization run by the school that promotes community service, leadership and social integrity, allows Grinnellians to volunteer for one year after graduation.

“Think of it as a one year version of the Peace Corps but funded by Grinnell and [in] partnership with other host institutions,” said Doug Cutchins ’93, Director of Social Commitment.

Grinnell Corps consists of four international and two domestic programs: Thailand, China, Lesotho, Namibia, Grinnell (hosted by MICA) and New Orleans. Each year, ten students are selected as corps members and receive a small stipend for their service.

“Our goal is that people don’t make money off this year nor do they lose money this year—it’s a year of service,” Cutchins said.

Ellie Deal ’11 presents on her year of service work in New Orleans. Photograph by Joanna Silverman.

Grinnellians often pursue service work following college, applying for jobs with organizations ranging from Americorps and Lutheran Volunteer Corps to Teach for America and the Peace Corps. Some don’t realize that there are opportunities much “closer” to home: Grinnell Corps.

Gwen Varley ’11 recently returned from her Grinnell Corps experience in Lesotho this past December. Lesotho is a small country in Southern Africa and bordered completely by South Africa. Varley taught in St. Rodrigue, a city surrounded by mountainous terrain.

Right away, Varley was struck by the differences in the British grading system that the school used compared to what she was accustomed in the United States.

“A 40% was a pass and I rarely graded anything above a 70%,” she said last Monday during her presentation.

However, grading seemed like a small adaptation compared to Varley’s home during the fellowship, jokingly referred to as “Bo Grinnell,” which had no electricity, hot water or refrigerator.

“I got a lot of reading in,” Varley joked.

Alison Weck ’11, another Grinnell Corps member, worked and lived in Southeast Asia for 14 months. From August to this past December, Weck spent her Grinnell Corps fellowship in Thailand teaching English at Payap University.

“I was a GWSS concentrator, so from a gender perspective I wanted to pursue that sort of scholarly interest, but I was also just intrigued with Asia in general,” Weck said.

When considering the numerous service projects available, Grinnell Corps stands out because it allows Grinnellians the opportunity to offer their volunteer services while still remaining connected to the College.

“I was intrigued by the idea that my Grinnell connection could continue after college. I thought that having funding to go do this fellowship was a very unique opportunity for a Grinnellian,” said Weck. “Because I wanted to keep that connection and foster it, I felt [Grinnell Corps] was better than the other [service] programs I could have applied for.”

Although Grinnell Corps is very competitive, the foundation hopes to expand.

“This spring, a group of individuals will gather to review the history, mission and structure of the program with the intent of making recommendations to President Kington about how Grinnell Corps might widen its scope and diversify its partnerships,” said Mark Peltz, Associate Dean and Director of Career Development, in an email.

Both Varley and Weck had fulfilling and memorable experiences with their Grinnell Corps fellowships. But these experiences are not exclusive; anyone can apply. While considering other volunteer programs, take the time to look into Grinnell Corps, a fun and adventurous way to contribute to any community across the world. Applications are due this Monday at 5:00 p.m.