Luckey’s Peace Corps journey leads back to UW–Madison, into role of recruiter

When telling his personal story, Eric Luckey leaves no doubt about his enthusiasm for the outdoors. Luckey, who grew up in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, often spends his free time hiking in the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin, canoeing the state’s waterways, fishing, or working in his garden.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2007, Luckey hiked 1,300 miles of the Appalachian Trail. He also worked as a canoe guide for an outfitter in Ely, Minnesota, taking tourists into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Among his experiences, he fondly recalls taking “the greatest canoe trip of my life” half a world away, with a few friends through the sparse landscape of Mongolia in central Asia. Talking with local shepherds in their native language along the way made the journey particularly special.

Luckey is among the more than 3,000 UW–Madison alumni who have served around the world in the Peace Corps. He served in 2010-12 as a teacher of English as a foreign language and community development volunteer in rural Bulgan, Mongolia. The canoe trip marked the final chapter of his two-year experience.

He has returned to UW–Madison to pursue his master’s degree in educational policy studies, and to serve as the campus recruiter for the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps recruiter Eric Luckey
Peace Corps recruiter Eric Luckey

Since receiving his bachelor’s degree in religious studies and philosophy, Luckey’s experiences have included working in Minneapolis as a substitute teacher and as a field organizer with congressional campaign, and in Milwaukee as a substitute teacher at a prep school.

In 2010, he joined the Peace Corps, viewing it as an opportunity to combine his interests in organizing and education.

He describes Mongolia as a unique, beautiful place, adding that the remote, sparse landscape has left him with some vivid memories.

There, he experienced local life, which included living in a yurt for a year, without heat or plumbing.

“The people there are really hospitable,” he says. He especially appreciated the sense of the community within the schools, and enjoyed celebrations with teachers there.

Luckey also saw how grassroots development works: “The Peace Corps teaches you to value the assets of a local community, to learn from community members what they need, and to create sustainable development projects.”

Seemingly small projects can make a big difference, he explained. For example, he describes how a $400 grant for a water purification system had a significant impact at a hospital that relied on a small boiler pot for sterilization.

On a personal level, he views his Peace Corps experience as a journey of self-actualization.

“It’s one of those experiences when the highs are so high, and the low are so challenging,” he says.

He also developed a strong interest in the Mongolian education system. That led him back to UW–Madison last January, as a graduate student of comparative and international education in the Department of Educational Policy Studies, where he is examining that subject.

In August, he added the role of Peace Corps recruiter, taking on the task of keeping UW-Madison among the nation’s top recruiting schools.

Last year, UW–Madison had 103 graduates serving overseas in 47 countries as Peace Corps volunteers, ranking third among large U.S. universities. More than 3,000 UW–Madison alumni have volunteered with the Peace Corps since 1961, more than any other university except the University of California, Berkeley.

For those interested in learning more about the Peace Corps, Luckey will hold a general information meeting on Tuesday, September 24, at 7 p.m. in the On Wisconsin Room (Room 126) of the Red Gym.

Individuals also may contact Luckey by email at

— by Kerry G. Hill