Of all the ways Ohio Northern University alumni give back to the University, the one most often overlooked is the giving time and expertise. This Sunday, Amanda “Mandi” Horvath, BS ’06, will give both as she speaks to students about her experiences in the Peace Corps and what it means to serve.
“I want Northern students to know that there is another opportunity after graduation. They don’t just have to go to graduate school or try to find a job,” she says. “You can serve your country in the most amazing way you possibly can by being on the ground, working hand-in-hand with people from another culture, in another country, speaking their language. There is no other service in the world like that.”
The theme of service is a very important part of ONU today. From the recently launched Ada Civic Engagement Day initiative, which sees students volunteer to help with projects to make the community a nicer place to live, to national and even international service-learning trips, Northern is no stranger to finding the time and strength to help those in need.
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the driving forces behind the Ada Civic Engagement Day, ONU President Dan DiBiasio and First Lady Chris Burns-DiBiasio, are the same ones responsible for bringing Horvath to campus this weekend.
“I was thrilled to finally meet Dan and Chris in Denver. We started talking, and the conversation very quickly turned to service. I shared with them some of my experiences in the Peace Corps. They asked me right then and there if I would be willing to come back and speak about my experiences,” she says.
Horvath hopes to introduce students to the Peace Corps in a way she never was. Whereas most Peace Corps volunteers know someone who served, she didn’t know a soul. In fact, she rather serendipitously discovered the Peace Corps after her initial plans of attending her graduate school of choice fell through. As she looked for other programs, she discovered the Peace Corps’ Masters International Program offered through the University of Colorado at Denver.
The Peace Corps offers two graduate degree programs for to its volunteers. The Masters International program is for active duty volunteers, while the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program is for those who have completed their service and remains available to them for the rest of their lives. If not for the Masters International program, Horvath likely would have missed out on one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.
Horvath served in Ayolas, Paraguay, from 2007-10 as an environmental education volunteer. With degrees from Northern in biology and environmental studies, she was perfect for the role. She developed programs to educate her community on solid waste, recycling, composting, gardening and wildlife. She organized bird festivals for fifth- and sixth-grade students to help them learn about the local fauna and formed a community ecological group called Eco-Ayolas. She was even a weekly guest on a local radio program, during which she would talk about environmental topics and promote events the Eco-Ayolas were planning.
Today, Horvath is a fish and wildlife biologist for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver, Colo. Although her service to the Peace Corps is over, she is excited to share her experiences and hopes to inspire a new class of volunteers.
“I wanted to be a Peace Corps volunteer because I wanted to serve my country and serve others,” says Horvath. “I wanted to help those that might not be as lucky as we are here in America.”
With any luck, she won’t be the last Polar Bear to do so.
Mandi Horvath will speak on Sunday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Dicke Forum.