Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Anne Bromley:
February 2, 2011 – The University of Virginia is ranked No. 2 in the Peace Corps' list of the top 25 medium-sized colleges and universities in producing volunteers who live and work in foreign countries around the world.
Currently, 71 U.Va. undergraduates serve in the Peace Corps, an increase over last year's 64.
George Washington University, also in the medium school category, ranks No. 1 for the third consecutive year, with 72 undergraduate alums serving overseas.
The Peace Corps ranks its top volunteer-producing schools annually by the size of the student body. Large schools have more than 15,000 undergraduates, and medium-sized schools have 5,000 to 15,000 undergraduates. Small schools have fewer than 5,000 undergraduates.
Among large schools, the University of Colorado at Boulder outpaced other universities in providing Peace Corps volunteers, with 117 alumni currently serving overseas.
The University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg took the top spot in the small school category, with 32 volunteers.
In the preceding two years, U.Va. was counted among the large schools and ranked No. 10 and No. 11, respectively. The new rankings were calculated based on fiscal year 2009-10 data as of Sept. 30, 2010.
Since the organization began, 1,014 U.Va. alumni have served in the Peace Corps. Historically, the University of California-Berkeley maintains the No. 1 all-time rank, with 3,457 Peace Corps alumni.
In his letter to President Teresa Sullivan, Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams said, "Our successes, both this year and during the last 50 years, are directly attributable to the outstanding support we have received from the University of Virginia."
U.Va. is among a select group of schools with a part-time, on-site Peace Corps recruiter, said James McBride, executive director of University Career Services, who calls the recruiter a "volunteer-in-residence." Since 2006, his office has provided space and support for the position.
"One of the primary reasons U.Va. students are successful entering the Peace Corps is because the volunteers-in-residence provide a number of targeted outreach programs, participate in UCS career fairs and conduct information sessions and initial screening interviews in our office," McBride said.
Jonathan Moore, this year's recruiter (the job is usually based on a one-year contract), will be at Career Services' Spring Job and Internship Fair on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Alumni Hall. He also reaches out to the local community and has upcoming information sessions at the Senior Center, as well as at the Engineering School.
The role of Moore, a former Peace Corps volunteer who has worked in Romania and the Philippines, is important, McBride said, because he conducts the first screening of fourth-year students and other applicants. He nominates candidates he thinks will be successful volunteers.
The Peace Corps has a rolling application process, and interested individuals can schedule an appointment with him at any time during his hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since the fall semester, Moore has recommended about 25 students, he said.
When reviewing student applicants, he looks for a consistent, strong academic record. "That shows they've applied themselves," he said. Community service and leadership qualities are also important, as are the abilities to take responsibility and operate independently. Travel experience is helpful, but not required.
If students are worried that putting off career development to go into the Peace Corps might be detrimental, Moore said he always emphasizes the opposite is true. "Having Peace Corps on your resume is almost always going to be helpful," he said. "And it makes you a better person."
Every day, his Peace Corps experience plays a positive role in his life, he said.
The Peace Corps, established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Its volunteers work on issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology to environmental preservation.
More than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to build a better understanding between Americans and the people of the host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 77 countries.