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Updated 10:00 AM February 13, 2006




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  Peace Corps
U-M tops list of graduate degree volunteers

It was 2 a.m. when the 43-year-old presidential candidate climbed the Michigan Union steps. John F. Kennedy asked the crowd if they'd be willing to devote a few years to help people in underdeveloped countries. Within a month, Kennedy was elected president and shortly thereafter 1,000 U-M students signed petitions calling for the establishment of his vision—the Peace Corps. He quickly signed an executive order and four-and-a-half decades later, U-M continues to be a leader in the number of recruits attracted to the corps.

The Peace Corps, preparing for its 45th anniversary in March, recently announced that U-M boasts the largest group of graduate school alumni currently serving in the organization. Last year 22 of 76 U-M graduates to join the corps had advanced degrees.

Counting all members in the 7,810-member corps, U-M ranks fifth in representation, while Michigan State University is eighth.

For the past 20 years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has delivered the largest number of volunteers, sending 104 in 2005. Wisconsin ranked second to U-M for sending the most volunteers with advanced degrees.

Since its inception in 1961 2,145 U-M alumni have joined the corps. Only three other schools have sent more members during that time.

Rudolfo Altamirano, director of the International Center, which oversees and promotes Corps programs on campus, notes that the organization is integrated into a full menu of co-curricular options for international work, internships, volunteering and careers offered through the center.

In terms of the overall statistics for participation in all co-curricular education abroad programs, U-M is one of the leading universities in the nation, he says.

"The U-M environment as a whole is a good one for the Peace Corps," Altamirano says. "There is a long-standing interest among U-M students in international issues and in social justice issues."

Altamarino also credits U-M Peace Corps coordinators who have worked hard to spread the message of the corps, making sure students who have the needed skills are aware of the option. Having Peace Corps coordinators housed in the International Center also contributes to their success because they are in a place focused on international education, he says.

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