Peace Corps Evacuee Fuels Love of Learning at Korbel
For graduating student Rozalia Schleinig, there’s no limit to exploring and expanding your knowledge.
“It never occurs to me that I can’t do something,” Schleinig says. “I like to know that I can do things.”
Whether it’s committing to run a half marathon or securing a fellowship to explore a new interest, Schleinig sets her mind to the task and follows the winding road wherever it may take her. Now, as she prepares to graduate from the University of Denver with a master’s degree in global economic affairs from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and a certificate in corporate social responsibility and global business from the Daniels College of Business, she’s reflecting on how her educational journey has come full circle in more ways than one.
After working on a farm in high school, her post-undergraduate experience included launching a food hub, working on various farms and doing supply chain management for another food hub.
“It was a pretty natural transition into working with people that I already knew in the area and really cared about,” she says of how she got involved with working with food hubs and nonprofits. “Then it just grew and grew because I wanted to learn more about all these different aspects of it.”
When Schleinig saw a 2019 Peace Corps listing for an agriculture volunteer in Madagascar, she knew it was another full-circle moment and the perfect opportunity to combine her work experience and interests.
“When I was 8 years old, I did my first research project ever, and it was on Madagascar,” Schleinig says. “When I saw the listing for an agriculture volunteer in Madagascar, I was like, ‘Wow. This is very full circle.’ Especially in agriculture, which is my background.”
Her time in Madagascar was spent focusing on food security and nutrition education by encouraging home gardening to increase vegetable consumption. She worked with local community leaders to develop a curriculum and had plans to share seeds with local parishioners to keep the garden growing.
“I really enjoyed it,” she recalls. “I spent a lot of time just getting to know people.”
When COVID-19 hit and cut her time in Madagascar short, Schleinig was searching for her next opportunity. That’s when she was accepted to DU’s expanded fellowship for evacuated Peace Corps volunteers.
“I think going to such a well-regarded school opens up so many doors,” she says. “The amount of connections and opportunities that have come just from being here is enormous. I think part of it is learning to advocate for yourself, but on the other hand, it’s just taking the opportunities that come and just see what happens.”
Taking advantage of DU’s opportunities is part of what has defined Schleinig’s time as a student. She completed work-study with the Center for China-U.S. Cooperation, which, she says, complemented her undergraduate minor in Chinese. She’s a research aide at the Pardee Center and recently earned a research fellowship with Phemex, a crypto trading platform.
One of her most memorable experiences was being selected to travel to Nairobi with DU students to study at the University of Nairobi at the end of 2021. The students traveled with Korbel professors Abigail Kabandula and Singumbe Muyeba. Schleinig especially appreciated getting to see professor Muyeba share his research results in the community where he collected the data for his project.
“It was really powerful, because one of the things we talk about a lot at Korbel is when you’re doing research, you’re working with communities and they are sharing so much with you,” Schleinig says. “There’s definitely been an increasing push to return to these communities to share your findings. That was really powerful to see that and learn about property rights in Kenya.”
Muyeba, meanwhile, appreciated having Schleinig’s thoughtful perspective during this time in Nairobi.
“Rozalia is a highly driven, highly intelligent and hardworking graduate student,” Muyeba says. “She successfully supported the work of a local professor in his research on the Belt and Road Initiative in Kenya, navigated government bureaucracies to find high-level interviewees, helped her peers to strategize and conduct preliminary focus group interviews with former members of a terrorist group in a slum, and wrote and presented a thoughtful reflection. She has such a bright future ahead of her.”
Now Schleinig is ready for her next adventure as she reenters the workforce in a new space, determined to apply everything she’s learned during her time at DU. After graduation, she will start with Deloitte in Denver in the government and public services practice as a consultant.
“I’m sure that a lot of the evacuated Peace Corps volunteers can relate to the whirlwind that the last few years have been,” she says. “I got home at the end of March  and was in grad school six weeks later. It’s crazy that it’s over, but I’m really excited to reenter the workforce. I’m excited to take the lessons that I’ve learned from one part of my life and now get to apply those as I reenter.”