Spotlight: Peace Corps employee
brought numbers to Namibian children

Sooner or later, some people are bound to have a life-changing experience. For Alex Pompe, his came when he joined the Peace Corps.
(Photo by Scott Galvin, U-M Photo Services)

Pompe, a Peace Corps campus coordinator at The International Center and a first-year graduate student in the School of Information, was inspired by his past professors to join in the Corps. "I wanted the chance to impact youth the same way my amazing teachers had impacted me throughout my education," he recalls. "I decided it was the best time in my life to give two years to volunteering abroad."

Originally from Belvidere, Ill., Pompe graduated with a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. But rather than pursue a doctorate, like he always had expected to do, Pompe took a different route.

"Two years is certainly a big commitment," he says, referring to the required serving term for most Peace Corps volunteers. "But I also considered it an amazing opportunity to become fully immersed in another culture."

Pompe was assigned to volunteer in Namibia, a country on the west coast of southern Africa. As part of his assignment, Pompe taught math to native students. "I did my best to replicate the influence (my former) teachers had in changing the way I thought about learning."

He also became very involved in activities outside of the classroom. "I worked on projects to improve information technology tools for education, started a school volleyball team, a school science club, and supervised students creating the first school yearbook and school choir CD."

After returning to the United States, Pompe knew he wanted to stay involved with the organization, so he began working as a Peace Corps campus coordinator at U-M. "I work as an information source for all students, faculty and area residents who are interested in possibly joining the Peace Corps," he says. "It is a great way to continue working in one of my passions while in graduate school."

At the university, student and faculty interest is high in joining the Peace Corps. So far, 2,276 U-M alumni have served, making it the fourth-highest all-time producer of volunteers among universities.

"It is great to see the student body today reflect the same commitment to service that led John F. Kennedy to form the Peace Corps 50 years ago on the steps (of the Michigan Union) less than 100 feet from my office," he says.

In his free time, Pompe is involved in many student groups at the School of Information and enjoys building guitars. "My apartment tends to look like the aftermath of a Pete Townsend solo," he laughs.

Typically, though, Pompe stays busy with Peace Corps administrative duties and recruitment events on campus. "Peace Corps has a presence at Michigan in many different ways," he explains. From recruiting to information sessions, and from returned volunteer reunions to interviewing prospective applicants, he has his hands full.

But Pompe knows that all of his hard work is worth it. "The legacy of that activism is manifested everyday when a student comes into my office wanting to change their life and the lives of others around the world."

Returned Peace Corps volunteers or those interested in joining may e-mail peace.corps@umich.edu to get in contact with Pompe and the other campus coordinators.

The weekly Spotlight features staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at urecord@umich.edu.