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University ranked in top five for Peace Corps involvement

By Ian Dillingham, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 5, 2013

After sparking the creation of the Peace Corps in 1960 on the steps of the Michigan Union, University students moved up on the list of top college participation in the program.

The University jumped one position to fourth in the nation among large universities for Peace Corps involvement, with 93 alumni serving in 43 countries around the world, according to the 2013 Peace Corps Top Colleges rankings. Last year, it ranked fifth.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Peace Corps acting director, announced the new rankings in a conference call on Tuesday.

“The University of Michigan is really the birthplace of Peace Corps,” Hessler-Radelet said. “U of M has always been a fantastic volunteer (University, which) has generated over 2,500 (volunteers), making it fourth in all-time production of volunteers.”

Among large universities — those with more than 15,000 students — the University trails the University of Washington, Seattle; the University of Florida; and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, which all have more than 100 volunteers serving.

Peace Corps members serve for 27 months in a variety of social, economic and political roles around the world. Many students join before going on to a wide range of other careers, Hessler-Radelet said.

“Peace Corps prepares graduates to be global citizens and succeed in the 21st century,” Hessler-Radelet said. “In today’s highly competitive job market, Peace Corps volunteers have a huge advantage.”

The top schools in each school-size category came from the state of Washington, a unique result in the history of the rankings. Schools with significant Peace Corps involvement often have similar programs or teaching philosophies, Hessler-Radelet said.

Mackenzie Knowling, a Peace Corps recruiter at the University, manages the Peace Corps Office in the International Center, which gives students information about possible opportunities and application procedures.

“The University of Michigan has a lot of activist students,” Knowling said. “People are looking to continue their work in social justice or social policy and the Peace Corps is a great way to (do that).”

Knowling believes the Peace Corps provides not only job experience, but also a means for students to explore new interests in a volunteer setting.

“I think a lot of people do seek out the Peace Corps as a way to jumpstart their career, but I think that some people see the Peace Corps as something they are really passionate about,” Knowling said. “It doesn’t really pertain to their career path in the future I think, though, the skills that they learn in the Peace Corps definitely help them out in (any) career path.”

Experiences in the Peace Corps are often challenging for students, Knowling said.

“I think the experience and learning how to work in difficult situations with limited resources — working with people who are extremely different, who may not speak the same language as you, being resourceful, being proximal, being patient … all serve you really well in whatever career path you choose to do after the Peace Corps,” Knowling said.

Applications are recommended applying nine to 12 months in advance. The University holds monthly information sessions for students to learn more about possible programs.

“A lot of students feel a connection to the Peace Corps because of the history here at the University of Michigan,” Knowling said. “It is a unique situation here with JFK’s history — standing on the steps of the Union, proclaiming the Peace Corps at 2 a.m. — so I think, (for) a lot of students … it’s one of the reasons they know about the Peace Corps here.”


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