Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

U-M again among top five in Peace Corps volunteers

U-M has maintained its top-five ranking among colleges and universities producing the highest numbers of Peace Corps volunteers, according to the organization's national rankings released today.

Michigan has 97 alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers, three more than last year. For the 12th year in a row, the university has placed on the Peace Corps' top-25 list of large universities nationwide producing volunteers. Since the organization was founded in 1961, 2,458 U-M alumni have served, making it the No. 4 all-time producer of Peace Corps volunteers.

"It doesn't surprise me. I'm really proud to keep recruiting younger and older volunteers. I'm proud to be part of the tradition at the University of Michigan," says Scott Burgess, coordinator of the U-M Peace Corps Office. "We have a long history going back to John Kennedy speaking on the Michigan Union steps."

The Peace Corps can be traced back to U-M when at 2 a.m. on October 14, 1960, then-Sen. John Kennedy addressed students on the steps of the Union. In his speech, he challenged the students to give two years of their lives to help people in countries of the developing world. In March 1961, Kennedy, as president, signed the Peace Corps into existence through executive order.

"Colleges and universities prepare thousands of talented undergraduate and graduate alumni for Peace Corps service every year," said Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams. "Every day, volunteers make countless contributions to projects in agriculture, education, the environment, health and HIV/AIDS education and prevention, small business development and youth development."

U-M offers both Peace Corps Master's International and Paul D. Coverdell Fellows graduate programs. The Coverdell Fellows Program offers Peace Corps volunteers who have completed their service the opportunity to attend U-M to earn an advanced degree in natural resources and environment, landscape architecture or public policy, with financial assistance and the chance to use their knowledge and skills in community internships as part of the program's requirements.

In 2010 the university introduced Peace Corps Master's International graduate programs. They allow students to combine Peace Corps service with graduate studies for credit in natural resources and environment, education studies and social work.

Burgess, who served in Paraguay as an environmental education volunteer in 2007-09, says of the experience, "It changed my life." He attended the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy as a Coverdell Fellow, and earned a Master of Public Policy degree.

There are approximately 336 Michigan residents serving in the Peace Corps, making it one of the highest Peace Corps-producing states. Overall, 6,713 Michigan residents have served in Peace Corps since 1961.

Since Kennedy established the Peace Corps, more than 200,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 9,095 volunteers are working with local communities in 75 host countries.

Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age, but there is no upper age limit to serve. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment, including three months of comprehensive culture, language, program, and safety and security training. The agency's mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries.