Peace Corps Volunteers in the Slovak Republic Bring Students to Knoxville for Odyssey of the Mind; Students To Participate For First Time in University Tournament

May 25, 1999

Washington, D.C., May 25, 1999—Four Peace Corps volunteers currently serving in the Slovak Republic, and one volunteer from Moldova, will accompany 19 students and one Slovakian teacher to Knoxville, Tenn., from May 25-29 as part of "Odyssey of the Mind," an international creative problem-solving competition for university students.
The Slovakian students, who are all business management majors, will then travel to Seattle where they will visit various businesses to learn more about how successful companies remain competitive. "This will be the first year that students from the Slovak Republic will participate in this program," said Judy Hansen, one of the four Peace Corps volunteers who introduced the concept to the students and is organizing the visit. "Because this is the first time they will participate, they were invited to attend the world finals in Tennessee. After this year, a competition in the Slovak Republic will take place every year to determine who will qualify to participate." The volunteers who will travel with the students include Judy Hansen and her husband, Neal, both of whom are from Seattle, Stacy Dickinson from Highlands Ranch, Colo., and Walter Renfree of Rosenburg, Ore. Judy Hansen and Renfree recruited the students and have been coaching them since last fall. The students, all in their 20s, attend the Technical University of Zvolen and Presov University in the Slovak Republic. Judy Hansen said she decided to introduce this unique program to her students after having served as a coach, judge, and program coordinator for Odyssey of the Mind in the United States. After the competition in Knoxville, the students hope to visit several companies in Seattle, including Eddie Bauer, the Seattle Times, Boeing, Wellco Lumber Company, Dillonworks, and Westin Hotel. They will stay with families in the Seattle area from May 30 - June 8. Odyssey of the Mind is a world-wide program that promotes creative team-based problem solving for kids from kindergarten through college. The program helps students learn divergent thinking and problem-solving skills while participating in a series of challenging and motivating activities, both inside and outside their regular classroom curriculum. There are currently more than 80 Peace Corps volunteers serving in the Slovak Republic, a small nation in Central Europe that separated from the Czech Republic in 1993. The volunteers are working primarily in business development, English teaching, teacher training, and environmental education. Since the Peace Corps program in the region began in 1990, nearly 240 Peace Corps volunteers have served there.

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