Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, February 15, 2010

U-M earns place on Peace Corps’ annual top colleges rankings

For the 10th year in a row, U-M has placed on the Peace Corps’ top 25 list of large universities nationwide producing Peace Corps volunteers.

With 73 alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers, U-M is at No. 8 in this year’s rankings. Since the Peace Corps was founded in 1961, 2,331 U-M alumni have served in it, making the university the No. 4 all-time producer of volunteers.

“The University of Michigan Peace Corps Office consistently leads all other campus offices in the Midwest in the number of applicants who are nominated to enter Peace Corps,” says Bill Nolting, assistant director for Education Abroad, International Center, who oversees the university’s contract with Peace Corps.

“This says good things about the University of Michigan: that its graduates are committed to international service and that the university provides tangible support for such aspirations.”
The announcement comes as U-M makes plans to celebrate 50 years of the Peace Corps, which has its roots at the university. A Web site (peacecorps.umich.edu) has been created to collect the stories from faculty, staff and students who served as volunteers, staff or consultants, and to showcase events planned for the semester-long anniversary celebration.

An impromptu, three-minute speech by then-Sen. John F. Kennedy on the front steps of the Michigan Union at 2 a.m. Oct. 14, 1960, started a student movement that led to establishment of the Peace Corps. According to Ted Sorensen, who was Kennedy’s speechwriter and adviser, “the Peace Corps was one of JFK’s proudest achievements, the epitome of his call for service and sacrifice.”

Alex Pompe, Peace Corps campus coordinator at the International Center, spent two years with the Peace Corps in Namibia. From 2006-08 Pompe was an education and IT development volunteer in the small rural village of Mpungu.

“I can only hope that the education I gave my students was half as meaningful everything the people and children of Mpungu taught me,” he says. “The experience led me to seek out a graduate school program that would combine my technical background with a focus on international development, and this led me to the School of Information here at the University of Michigan.”

In the last year, Pompe says, the Peace Corps at U-M has experienced a significant increase in student interest and applications. Because of this, he’s not surprised to hear of U-M’s national standing for Peace Corps volunteers.

“With the tremendous support our office receives from the university, the returned volunteer community in Ann Arbor and the Chicago regional Peace Corps office, I believe we can make a good run at a top five ranking in time for the 50th anniversary celebration,” he adds.

U-M is a great match for the Peace Corps because of its strong academics in areas that line up with Peace Corps programs, such as education, English teaching and languages; science, math and engineering; business; health; and environmental studies, Pompe says.

“In addition, U-M fosters leadership and vision among its student body, and demonstrates commitment to introducing students to global issues and international experiences,” he says. “These factors also make for a solid foundation in inspiring and preparing students for Peace Corps service.”

Currently, there are 7,671 Peace Corps volunteers serving in 76 host countries around the world. There are approximately 309 Michigan residents serving in the Peace Corps, making it one of the highest Peace Corps-producing states. Overall, 6,569 Michigan residents have served in Peace Corps since its inception.