Two UW Students Accepted Into Peace Corps

woman posing with a sunset in the background
Alea Denney

University of Wyoming students Alea Denney, of Keene, N.H., and Katie Johnson, of Casper, have been accepted into the Peace Corps. Their service begins following spring commencement.

Denney is a senior majoring in governance and conflict resolution, with minors in anthropology and honors. On campus, she works as a program assistant with Education Abroad and as assistant outreach coordinator with the Arabic and Middle East North Africa Studies Program. Johnson is majoring in international studies and philosophy, with minors in Spanish and honors.

Denney will promote Spanish literacy in the Dominican Republic, helping local teachers develop a curriculum and working on student and parent outreach programs to increase community involvement in education.

“I was attracted to the Peace Corps initially in high school as a way to explore the world and create meaningful change at local levels,” Denney says. “I am a big believer in citizen-to-citizen diplomacy and have always felt that it is one of the most effective ways to create positive change.”

During her time at UW, Denney has studied abroad in Iceland, Vietnam, Cambodia, the United Kingdom and several Nordic countries.

“My other international ‘fun’ travel beyond these, such as exploring Roman ruins in Albania or making new friends in Japan, has only affirmed my love of learning about other cultures,” Denney says.

She also completed the Peace Corps Prep program at UW, a diversity-focused program that enhances students’ undergraduate experiences by preparing them for international development fieldwork and potential Peace Corps service.

The program at UW, which launched in fall 2020, is administered by the Advising, Career and Exploratory Studies (ACES) Center. Students from all majors can apply to the program, which integrates coursework with hands-on experience and professional development.

“I feel very well prepared to live in a new country with the research and work I have done, and I’m sincerely looking forward to starting my work and immersing myself in my Dominican host community,” Denney says. “UW Peace Corps Prep Program Coordinator Becky Despain also was one of my biggest supporters during the application process and helped me stay on top of managing my application in a timely manner.”

After serving with the Peace Corps, Denney plans to pursue a career in foreign policy analysis or in the international charity sector with organizations such as Amnesty International, Oxfam or the U.S. Agency for International Development. She also hopes to continue championing citizen diplomacy and children’s right to education.

woman posing near an alpaca
Katie Johnson

For her part, Johnson has studied abroad many times as a UW student.

“I studied economics in Iceland; visited New York with the dean of the Honors College; lived and learned in Ecuador; interviewed people in Jordan, Israel and Palestine about the conflict; interned for one of Wyoming’s U.S. senators in Washington, D.C.; earned a U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarship to study Portuguese in Brazil; and, most recently, explored the post-Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia for my Honors College capstone project,” Johnson says.

She discovered the Peace Corps when she was 17 years old during a panel titled “A Lifetime of Service.” Since then, she has considered different options after graduation but always finds herself being called back to the Peace Corps.

“It combines my love of service and interest in different cultures, and it promises a challenge to make me a more resilient, altruistic, well-rounded person,” she says.

Johnson will serve as an English teacher in Sri Lanka and, in the future, she hopes to work for the State Department or U.S. Agency for International Development.

“My career goal is to contribute to world peace and sustainable development so everyone can access the goods I have enjoyed my entire life,” she says.

To learn more about the Peace Corps Prep program at UW, email Despain at

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