UW-Madison regains top ranking in recruiting Peace Corps volunteers

Feb. 11, 2014

by Kerry Hill

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has regained the distinction as the nation's top producer of current Peace Corps volunteers, with 90 alumni serving overseas.

UW-Madison held the top spot on the Peace Corps' annual top schools rankings from 2001 to 2006 and has consistently ranked among the top 10 in subsequent years, while working to reclaim the No. 1 position.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet

Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet joins with UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank, to celebrate the university’s return to the No. 1 spot on the annual rankings of schools that produce the most Peace Corps volunteers.

Photo: Kerry Hill

Acting Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet came to the Madison campus to make the announcement today, joined by UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank.

UW-Madison has been a leading resource for the Peace Corps throughout its history. Since the agency was created in 1961, a total of 3,112 UW-Madison alumni have served abroad, second only to the University of California, Berkeley (3,576).

The university also has contributed to making Wisconsin a top 10 state for Peace Corps volunteers per capita, with 3.7 volunteers for every 100,000 residents. Currently, 213 Wisconsin residents are serving; overall, 5,846 state residents have served since 1961.

"We are proud of the long, deep ties between the Peace Corps and UW-Madison — reflected in the number of UW alumni who have served and in the number of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have come to build careers here," says Blank. "The mission of the Peace Corps is very much aligned with our guiding principle, the Wisconsin Idea — the commitment that we apply our knowledge and skills to improve the lives of people near and far."

Peace Corps volunteer

A Peace Corps volunteer with children in Gambia.

"The same passion that launched the Peace Corps more than 50 years ago fuels progress in developing countries today, thanks to the leadership and creativity that college graduates bring to their Peace Corps service," says Hessler-Radelet. "The unique Peace Corps experience helps recent graduates cultivate highly sought-after skills that will launch their careers in today's global economy."

UW-Madison alumna Liz Chadwick of St. Charles, Ill. has been serving as an education volunteer in Guinea since July 2011. In addition to teaching high school biology and physics in her local community, she has coached volleyball and soccer teams, helped coordinate a national spelling bee, and educated students about malaria prevention.

Chadwick's freshman year academic advisor at UW-Madison first suggested the Peace Corps to her. Learning that many of her favorite professors had served in the Peace Corps further inspired her.

"UW-Madison prepared me for international service by implanting a curiosity and appreciation for other cultures," says Chadwick, who earned her degree in biology, along with a certificate in global cultures, in 2011. "It was not only hearing about the incredible stories of my returned volunteer professors at UW, but also the rich international cultures in Madison that inspired me to become a Peace Corps volunteer."

Peace Corps service benefits not only the host communities, but also the volunteers, who return home as global citizens with cross-cultural, leadership, language, teaching and community development skills that position them for advanced education and professional opportunities in today's global job market.

Peace Corps volunteers

Peace Corps volunteers pose with a class of students in Jamaica.

The annual rankings are listed by undergraduate population, with UW-Madison rated No. 1 among large colleges and universities with more than 15,000 students. Western Washington University, with 65 alumni serving, leads among schools with 5,000-15,000 undergraduates, and Gonzaga University, with 22 alumni serving, leads among schools with fewer than 5,000 undergraduates.

Common characteristics of the top-producing Peace Corps colleges include a focus on global and international studies, a strong returned volunteer community, and a sustained commitment to service, Hessler-Radelet says.

At UW-Madison, the Division of International Studies hosts an on-campus Peace Corps recruiter, who provides information and shares personal experiences as a volunteer. The current campus recruiter is Eric Luckey, a graduate student who served in Mongolia.

The agency is now accepting applications for assignments in 65 countries around the world for sustainable development projects in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth development.

During Peace Corps Week (Feb. 23-March 1), UW-Madison students can learn more about Peace Corps opportunities by attending a general information session on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. in the Red Gym, and a talk by Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Danna Hering on "Girls Leading Our World: Lessons from a Youth Leadership Camp in Southern Ethiopia," on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 4 p.m., in the Medical Sciences Center, Room 1010.

Other general information sessions are scheduled on Wednesday, March 26, at Union South and Wednesday, April 23, at the Red Gym, both at 7 p.m. An application workshop is scheduled Friday, March 28, at 2 p.m. in Helen C. White Hall, sixth floor.

Students also may contact Luckey by phone at 608-262-1121, by email at peacecorps@international.wisc.edu, or by visiting the Peace Corps office, Room 156 Red Gym, during office hours (Tuesdays 10 a.m.-noon, Wednesdays noon-2 p.m.).