UW-Madison Peace Corps

Peace Corps volunteer Laura Linde (center) and her students in Nicaragua give the UW-Madison "W" sign.

UW-Madison submitted photo

Laura Linde has taken the Wisconsin Idea south of the border, and the children in a small village in Nicaragua couldn’t be happier.

Linde, a 2014 chemistry and environmental studies graduate from UW-Madison, is one of 87 alumni serving in the Peace Corps, making the state’s flagship school the top volunteer-producing college or university in the country, campus officials announced recently.

This is the third year UW-Madison has placed in the top five for Peace Corps volunteers, coming in second in 2016.

“Public service is a proud tradition at UW-Madison, and our partnership with the Peace Corps is one longstanding example,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank said.

“Not only do our graduates make meaningful contributions in communities around the world, they gain valuable knowledge and leadership skills that will remain with them for a lifetime,” Blank said. “It is truly the Wisconsin Idea in action.”

Linde was inspired after attending a career fair and heard from other Peace Corps volunteers.

“For me, serving in the Peace Corps stems from the Wisconsin Idea, which is taking the experiences and knowledge I learned at Madison and applying them beyond the state borders,” she said.

Since the Peace Corps was founded by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, 3,239 UW-Madison alumni have served as volunteers around the globe, putting the university second on the all-time list of Peace Corps volunteers.

“The growth UW-Madison alumni gain through experiences with the Peace Corps cannot be understated,” said Guido Podesta, UW-Madison vice provost and dean of the university’s International Division.

“These volunteers are gaining leadership skills, intercultural competency and a greater understanding of the world we live in,” Podesta said.

Linde teaches science in elementary school, facilitates gender-focused camps and is involved with the Peace Corps gender and development committee in Nicaragua, the university said.

She will complete her two-year assignment later this year, and plans to work to improve environmental practices internationally.

“I wouldn’t be a Peace Corps volunteer if I would not have studied abroad during my time at UW-Madison,” Linde said. “That opportunity gave me the confidence and desire to continue living abroad and exploring other cultures.”

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Bill Novak is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.