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D.C. area universities among top providers of Peace Corps volunteers

George Washington University students lounge and walk in Kogan Plaza in Washington, D.C. in this 2013 file photo. The university has again ranked in the top five for medium-sized schools for its number of Peace Corps volunteers. (Photo by Mary F. Calvert For The Washington Post)
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This story has been updated.

Three Washington area universities were among the top providers of volunteers for the Peace Corps this year, sending students across the globe as part of the service organization’s mission of spreading peace and understanding.

In the list of the top-ranked medium-sized schools — with 5,000 to 15,000 undergraduates — American University landed in second place with 41 volunteers, followed closely by George Washington University and the University of Virginia, each with 36. Georgetown University ranked 10th for medium schools, while Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., topped that list with 47 volunteers.

The D.C. metropolitan area ranked second for Peace Corps volunteers in 2014. The 2015 metropolitan areas rankings have not yet been announced.

Stephen Angelsmith, graduate admissions and program coordinator for American’s School of International Service, isn’t surprised that Washington area schools have a major presence in the service organization.

“These are students that are committed to service and interested in pursuing future careers in international affairs,” Angelsmith said. “I think Washington is a critical point for them to come and launch these careers in service.”

All of the numbers for the D.C. area schools are down from last year, when U-Va. had 44 volunteers, AU had 43, and GW had 41, all three finishing in the Top Five.

U-Va. first entered the medium schools list in 2014 after previously being classified as a large school with more than 15,000 undergraduates. U-Va.’s number of Peace Corps volunteers shrunk 35 percent from 2013 to 2015. U-Va. officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Peace Corps attributes the lower number of volunteers in the field to its shrinking budget and the recent suspension of programs in Kenya and Ukraine, which limit available spots, Peace Corps press director Shira Kramer said Wednesday. After the Peace Corps announced a new application process last summer, the organization saw a 70 percent jump in applications in 2014. The changes allow applicants to specify the country and program of their choice.

“We’re thrilled with the response we’ve seen to our reforms so far,” Kramer said. “Since we unveiled our new application process last summer, we’ve seen a spike in applications that indicates that when we offer a simpler, clearer process, Americans will raise their hands to serve in record numbers. The demand for Peace Corps is great, and we hope to increase our volunteers in the field in coming years.”

The Peace Corps, established on March 1, 1961, sends U.S. citizens abroad to perform service projects, which volunteers have performed in 140 countries. Today, there are more than 60 host countries and the agency has a $379 million budget; nearly 220,000 people have served in the Peace Corps.

[See an overview of the Peace Corps.]

Despite an overall shrinking number of Peace Corps volunteers in the field, other opportunities are on the rise, said Amy B. Cohen, the executive director of GW’s Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service.

“For many years, Peace Corps was one of only a handful of public service options for students, especially internationally,” Cohen said. “There has been huge growth in the number of global and domestic options in recent years.”

Recent graduates like Silpa Srinivasulu of George Washington University, who works in a Dominican Republic health clinic, joined the Peace Corps to follow up on their D.C. experiences.

“There were just so many opportunities available in D.C. to intern and work in public health,” said Srinivasulu, 23, of Robbinsville, N.J. “I put everything together and I really enjoyed it. I wanted to keep having this experience of volunteering, service and also applying my interest in public health.”

Here are this year’s rankings, according to the Peace Corps:

Large Colleges & Universities – Total Volunteers:
(More than 15,000 undergraduates)
1. University of Washington (72)
2. University of Wisconsin–Madison (69)
3. University of Florida (66)
4. The Ohio State University (64)
5. University of Minnesota Twin Cities (63)

Medium Colleges & Universities – Total Volunteers:
(Between 5,000 and 15,000 undergraduates)
1. Western Washington University (47)
2. American University (41)
3. George Washington University (36)
3. University of Virginia (36)
5. Cornell University (33)

Small Colleges & Universities – Total Volunteers:
(Less than 5,000 undergraduates)
1. Gonzaga University (20)
2. Carleton College (17)
3. Middlebury College (16)
3. University of Puget Sound (16)
5. Macalester College (15)

Graduate Schools – Total Volunteers:
1. University of Denver (18)
1. Tulane University (18)
3. University of Minnesota Twin Cities (14)
4. Portland State University (13)
5. University of Michigan (12)
5. Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (12)

Historical, Since 1961 – Total Volunteers:
1. University of California, Berkeley (3,598)
2. University of Wisconsin–Madison (3,145)
3. University of Washington (2,888)
4. University of Michigan (2,596)
5. University of Colorado Boulder (2,411)