Penn State alumna begins Peace Corps service in Paraguay

Penn State chemical engineering alumna Sarah Torhan will be working on community-based development projects during her Peace Corps service in Paraguay, joining the more than 220 volunteers currently serving in the South American country. Credit: Courtesy Sarah TorhanAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State alumna Sarah Torhan has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Paraguay on Sept. 11 to begin training as an environment volunteer. Torhan will live and work in a community to promote environmental awareness and action at the local level.

Torhan earned a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Penn State in 2014. She also received a minor in Engineering Leadership Development, which encourages engineers to work cross-culturally and internationally. The minor provides students with the understanding of individual, team and organization leadership; global competencies and multicultural awareness; and innovation and management skills. 

Prior to joining the Peace Corps, Torhan served as a process engineer at W. L. Gore & Associates, an academic associate for Arizona State University’s Engineering Projects in Community Service Program, and a professional mentor and university liaison for Engineers Without Borders. She is the daughter of Cathy and Frank Torhan, of Baden, Pennsylvania, and a graduate of Ambridge Area High School.

In search of a career path that combined her interests in engineering and community service, Torhan applied to the Peace Corps as a way to fulfill both passions and serve as a launching pad for her profession.

“I have been looking to make a career shift toward sustainable development, human-centered design, and/or humanitarian engineering,” said Torhan. “The Peace Corps seemed to be a great gateway for me to become an engineer working in international developing countries by presenting the necessary opportunities to challenge my perspective and shape my worldview.”

During the first three months of her service, Torhan will live with a host family in Paraguay to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the necessary skills to assist her community, Torhan will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in Paraguay, where she will live and work for two years with the local people.

“I saw the Peace Corps as the next step to apply my chemical engineering education to eventually design for social impact,” Torhan said.

Torhan will work in cooperation with the local people and partner organizations on sustainable, community-based development projects that improve the lives of people in Paraguay, while also developing leadership, technical and cross-cultural skills that will give her a competitive edge in the job market when she returns home.

Penn State has been recognized as one of the nation’s top producers of Peace Corps volunteers, coming in at No. 8 nationally in the Peace Corps’ 2017 ranking of college and universities in the large school category, with 50 undergraduate alumni currently serving overseas. Since the Peace Corps’ founding in 1961, 1,085 Penn State alumni have traveled abroad to serve as volunteers.

Penn State students and alumni interested in Peace Corps service can browse available volunteer positions at

Last Updated September 19, 2017