Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Peace Corps continues to attract large number of U-M alumni volunteers

Only two universities nationwide produced more Peace Corps volunteers last year than U-M, according to the Peace Corps annual rankings released today.


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Peace Corps at U-M

U-M ranked third with 94 undergraduate alumni volunteers in 2010, trailing only the universities of Colorado and Florida with 117 and 97 volunteers, respectively. The universities of North Carolina and Washington also had 94 volunteers last year. In addition, U-M tied for fourth among the number of graduate alumni volunteers with 15, six behind the leader, the University of Washington.

"The statistics say a lot about the idealism and willingness of University of Michigan students to serve," says William Nolting, assistant director of the Education Abroad Office at the U-M International Center.

"It's also a testimonial to the outstanding work done by the returned Peace Corps volunteers who staff the office, giving presentations, advising interested individuals, and interviewing applicants as the first stage in the nominations process. Last year, those returned volunteers were Alex Pompe, a graduate student in the School of Information, and Mahima Mahadevan, a graduate student in the Ford School of Public Policy."

Since March 1, 1961, when President John F. Kennedy signed the executive order that officially established the Peace Corps, U-M has produced 2,409 alumni volunteers. Only three universities have more — California-Berkeley, Wisconsin and Washington.

Kennedy first proposed the idea of the Peace Corps in the early morning hours of Oct. 14, 1960, as he addressed more than 5,000 U-M students from the steps of the Michigan Union in an unprepared campaign speech. The then-U.S. senator challenged the students to serve their country and promote the cause of peace by working in developing countries around the world. Afterwards, hundreds of U-M students signed a petition saying they would volunteer.

"It might still be just an idea but for the affirmative response of those Michigan students and faculty," said the late Sargent Shriver, Kennedy's brother-in-law and the Peace Corps' first director. "Possibly Kennedy would have tried it once on some other occasion, but without a strong popular response he would have concluded the idea was impractical or premature. That probably would have ended it then and there. Instead it was almost a case of spontaneous combustion."

"For the last 50 years, colleges and universities across our country have been an integral part of the Peace Corps family, from developing young leaders to hosting trainings and teaching the importance of lifelong learning," says current Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams. "Today, we continue to be inspired by the enthusiasm, dedication and creativity of the thousands of Americans now serving overseas. Colleges instill a commitment to public service among their students and share our belief that, together, we can work to make the world a better place."

The Peace Corps annual rankings are calculated based on fiscal year 2010 data as of Sept. 30, 2010, as self-reported by Peace Corps volunteers.

Throughout 2011, the Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 77 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.