Stony Brook University alumna Helen Jolly, left – who served as an Agriculture Volunteer in Guatemala from 2003 to 2005 – works on campus at the university as a Peace Corps Recruiter while pursuing her doctorate in sociology.
Stony Brook University alumna Helen Jolly, (above, left), served as an Agriculture Volunteer in Guatemala from 2003 to 2005—works on campus at the university as a Peace Corps Recruiter while pursuing her doctorate in sociology. PHOTO CREDIT: PEACE CORPS

Stony Brook named Helen Jolly as the university’s Peace Corps recruitment officer, making Stony Brook the first school in the SUNY system to have a Peace Corps recruiter.

Marianna Savoca, the director of the Career Center, welcomed Jolly to her team. Savoca has worked closely with the Peace Corps’ Northeast regional office for almost ten years and applied for a grant to establish the recruitment officer position as soon as it became available earlier this year.

The position is an investment by the Peace Corps in Stony Brook and its ability to send more applicants into service, Savoca said.

Savoca reviewed applications for the position and chose Jolly because she served with the Peace Corps in Guatemala from 2003 to 2005. It was “necessary that we bring someone who has served,” said Savoca.


Jolly, who is a doctoral candidate studying sociology at Stony Brook University, will serve as the university’s recruitment officer for the next two years in conjunction to her education. As the recruitment officer, Jolly will provide information about the Peace Corps to curious students and guide graduating seniors through the application process.

Jolly provides intensive support for people looking to apply through her office hours, which she holds every Monday or by appointment, Savoca said. She will help prospective students through every step of the application process, from choosing a specific country and sector to writing a résumé and an application that is more likely to be accepted.

“Usually one in three applications are accepted,” said Jolly, which is close to the Stony Brook’s acceptance rate of about 40 percent.

There are about 200 Stony Brook alumni who have served in the Peace Corps, including six who are currently serving, according to a news release from the Peace Corps. Jolly aims to generate more interest in the Peace Corps among the student population and said she wants to raise the application rate to about 30 to 40 completed applications per year, almost double what it is now.


To reach her goals, Jolly has been engaging with the student body in the past few weeks. She has been giving short presentations about the Peace Corps in the beginnings of a variety of undergraduate classes. Jolly has also been presenting to clubs and faculty at diversity events and workshops.

In each of her presentations, she talks mainly about what the Peace Corps is—a program established by John F. Kennedy to foster world peace and friendship—and the benefits of joining the corps.

The Peace Corps is “fairly prestigious,” Jolly said. Beyond the two-year service commitment, Jolly said the corps provides invaluable resources like job networking and two years of work experience—something most entry level jobs require.

Savoca agreed, saying many corporations see involvement as a competitive value. The Peace Corps “totally makes a candidate stand out,” Savoca said, stating that it “adds a unique aspect.”

But the Peace Corps is not all about those kinds of personal benefits. Reflecting on her own experience in Guatemala, where she worked mostly with women teaching them about better livestock management solutions, Jolly said the Peace Corps is more about learning.


“You always learn more than you can contribute,” Jolly said.

Since her appointment to the position in late August, both Savoca and Jolly have noticed great feedback from the campus. Savoca said she has been receiving a lot of responses from faculty either praising the newly added position or asking her for more information. Jolly says there has “truly been a very positive reception.”


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