When the Peace Corps released its annual list of the colleges and universities with the largest number of volunteers last week, the University ranked sixth, with 65 volunteers presently active.
Campus recruiter Denise Mortimer said the University”s program has been growing over the past year.
“I”ve been surprised how busy I”ve been,” said Mortimer, who assumed her present position last fall. “Since September, 62 people have interviewed. Our goal is generally 55, and we still have several weeks left in the school year,” she said.
Mortimer noted that campus Peace Corps participation ranked first in the University”s district, which includes Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky.
The University of Wisconsin at Madison ranked first with 93 volunteers.
She said she thinks University students” experiences in Ann Arbor help to make the Peace Corps a popular program.
“The people here want to help. They feel they”ve had a great learning opportunity and want to give back,” she said.
She added that because the University has one of the 20 Peace Corps recruitment centers in the nation, a large number of people interview for positions here. Additionally, the recruitment efforts on campus, which include informative talks to classes and campus groups, have shown favorable results.
In total, the Peace Corps currently employs 7,300 volunteers in 76 countries. Yet the program is constantly growing as new assignments are continually being announced. “There is definitely room for more people to apply,” Mortimer said.
Former Peace Corps volunteers praised the organization and the experiences it offers. “I frequently recommend Peace Corps to those that are interested,” said Rackham student Liz Rettenmaier, who volunteered in the African nation of Ivory Coast from 1993 to 1995.
“It was an experience that I count among the most incredible in my life. It isn”t for everybody, but for those that are looking for an opportunity to live in another country for two years and experience a culture and a people in a way that virtually no other job will offer, Peace Corps is the way to go,” she said.
Rackham student Jesse Buff, who volunteered in Nicaragua from 1996 to 1998, said he shared the same sentiment. “It was probably one of the most expanding types of experiences one can have,” Buff said. “It was wonderful all around.”
Mortimer herself participated in the Peace Corps, volunteering in Mali from 1995 to 1997. “The experience opens your eyes up to a whole new perspective, one that I don”t think anyone regrets,” she said.
The notion of the Peace Corps was announced during a visit to the University of Michigan by presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960. Standing on the steps of the Michigan Union, Kennedy challenged a group of 10,000 students to volunteer their skills overseas. The first group of volunteers left for Africa in August 1961.