Grad Peace Corps participation up

GW graduate participation in the Peace Corps reached an all-time high this year, with the University ranking third among the nation’s medium-sized schools for producing volunteers.

GW moved up four spots in the medium-sized school category in the United States Peace Corps’ annual rankings, “Top Producing Colleges and Universities.” There are 61 alumni serving in the government volunteer group President John F. Kennedy created in 1961. Since its inception, 797 GW graduates have served overseas in the two-year program.

Nathan Arnold, a Peace Corps spokesperson, attributed GW’s high participation rate to its location in D.C.

“It’s no mistake four of the D.C. schools made the top 10 list. It just shows the type of person goes to school in D.C. because of the government and their exposure to politics and the global scene,” Arnold said.

Georgetown and American universities and the University of Maryland also rank among the top Peace Corps volunteer contributors.

Senior Evan Schmitt said he has been considering participating in the Peace Corps for a long time.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about since before I went to college,” Schmitt said. “Coming to the end of second semester of my senior year I haven’t found any one profession to do. This would give me time to think what I want to do with my life.”

Schmitt added that his experience in the Elliott School of International Affairs pushed him toward service.

“I wouldn’t say that GW itself is pushing me. Classes and professors have pushed me,” Schmitt said. “I think of it as an individual kind of thing. I would like to think that GW is drawing more kids who are interested in the humanitarian aspect of international affairs.”

Sophomore Caitlin Harvey, president of GW’s largest community service organization, Circle K, said she is not surprised GW produces so many volunteers.

“It’s no surprise that GW ranks third among Peace Corps applicants, since service organizations such as Circle K foster a sprit of goodwill and humanitarianism that stays with students long after they graduate,” Harvey wrote in an e-mail.

Peace Corps National Recruiter Jonathon Lee said students across the country are more interested in volunteerism.

“In general, we are seeing that universities are having more of a focus on service learning and I think that has had an impact nationwide on the amount of volunteers we are seeing,” Lee said.

The Peace Corps sends volunteers to 72 countries and has 7,733 volunteers abroad. Schmitt’s personal goal is to go to Africa because of his French language skills and a longtime fascination with the continent.

“The reason we get top-notch universities is because people have such specialized skills,” Arnold, of the Peace Corps, said.

Volunteers for the Peace Corps must be at least 18 years old. Although it is not a requirement, 97 percent of volunteers have at least an undergraduate degree. The governmental organization holds information sessions in D.C. throughout the year. A Peace Corps recruiter will attend a Marvin Center career fair on Feb. 28, according to the organization’s Web site.

University of Wisconsin-Madison produced the top number of volunteers this year with 123 alumni working abroad. Only the University of Virginia and Georgetown ranked higher than GW in the mid-size category, which is limited to schools with an undergraduate student population of 5,000 to 15,000.

-Caitlin Carroll contributed to this report.

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