The universities of Washington and Florida boast the largest number of alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps, with 107 graduates-turned-volunteers each, according to rankings the organization plans to release Tuesday. In the D.C. region, three schools made the Peace Corps’ top five lists: American University, George Washington University and the University of Mary Washington.
For the past decade, the Peace Corps has released an annual ranking of the top large, medium and small schools that graduate students who then serve overseas for a little more than two years. The organization, an independent U.S. government agency that has been around for more than 50 years, has more than 8,000 volunteers in more than 75 countries.
This year, the top schools in each category were in Washington state: the University of Washington on the large-schools list, Western Washington University on the medium-schools list with 73 volunteers, and Gonzaga University in Spokane on the small-schools list with 24.
It’s the first time that one state has swept all three categories, said Carrie Hessler-Radelet, acting director of the Peace Corps.
“It just seems to be the kind of state that’s very progressive and shares some of the same values as the Peace Corps,” said Hessler-Radelet, who volunteered in Western Samoa in the early 1980s and is part of a family in which four generations have participated.
On the opposite coast, the Washington region had several schools ranked in the top 10 in their respective category.
For small schools, the University of Mary Washington was No. 3 and St. Mary’s College of Maryland was No. 8.
For medium-size colleges, AU ranked No. 2 in the country with 55 volunteers, and GWU was No. 3, with 53. Georgetown University ranked eighth and the College of William and Mary was ninth.
And, yes, the college rankings craze has extended to even postgraduate public service work. Teach for America also releases an annual ranking of its top-producing schools (University of California at Berkeley, Northwestern University and Wellesley College topped the latest lists.)
Recruiters have recently begun pushing a previously understated perk of the program: attractiveness on résumés, especially as companies become more global and look for employees who are fluent in foreign languages and able to bridge cultural divides, Hessler-Radelet said.
At AU, which frequently lands high on the Peace Corps ranking, that perk is well recognized, said Sarah Bartfeld, an undergraduate academic adviser in AU’s School of International Service. Many AU professors, staff members and alumni are previous Peace Corps volunteers, providing personal testimony to students.
“The Peace Corps has a very well-known reputation,” said Bartfeld, who taught English in a small village in Albania in 2004 to 2006 with the organization. “These students, while they want to do service, they also want to get a job. The Peace Corps is known.”