CU has been ranked number two in the large schools category of the Peace Corps’ Top 25 Top Colleges and Universities List for 2009.
The list ranks schools by the number of alumni actively serving in the Peace Corps. With 102 volunteers, CU-Boulder places a close second to top school University of Washington’s 104 volunteers, according to a news release on the Peace Corps Web site.
This ranking is a step up for CU from last year’s number three rank.
Since its conception in 1961 the Peace Corps has always gotten the vast majority of its volunteers from newly graduated young people. 94 percent of Peace Corps volunteers have at least an undergraduate degree and 11 percent have a graduate degree, according to a Peace Corps representative.
Shannon Borders, a public affairs specialist at the Peace Corps, said many programs in the Peace Corps actually require a college degree.
“Over 90 percent of our programs require a bachelor’s degree; it’s a highly competitive [application] process,” Borders said.
Borders said she thinks CU ranks so high on the list because volunteer work is a big part of the campus atmosphere.
“I think it’s a combination of recruitment efforts on campus as well as the campus’ motivation to teach students the value of service,” Borders said.
Evan Taylor, CU Peace Corps campus coordinator and a senior MCD biology major, said he thinks CU is ranked so high because CU’s campus has always had a great spirit in getting involved and that’s reflective of the Peace Corps.
“It’s partly recruiting efforts’ spirit of being involved in the community fostered by the professors at CU,” Taylor said.
Taylor said CU students also just have the type of personality that draws them to the Peace Corps.
“CU students are looking to challenge themselves [and are] adventuresome,” he said. “CU students have always been interested in reaching out to communities all over the world.”
CU graduate Anna Domenico said she served in the Peace Corp in South Africa from 1998 to 2000. She said she was drawn to the Peace Corps because she enjoys meeting people from different backgrounds and different cultures.
“I just really wanted the experience of being part of a community very different from my culture,” Domenico said. “I wanted to do my part to make the world a better place.”
Domenico graduated from CU in 1997 with a degree in sociology.
“After I graduated, it was kind of my main goal to be accepted to be a Peace Corps volunteer,” Domenico said. “It took a while, the process was rather long, but I actually ended up being placed in the country I wanted to go to.”
Domenico said she served in the rural province of Mpumalanga in South Africa.
“I was part of [a] school and community resource program [that] worked with teachers to help them improve their schools by trying to get not only interactive lesson plans but also [by getting] the community involved in different projects outside the elementary schools,” Domenico said.
At that time in South Africa, apartheid was over and Nelson Mandela was president. However, according to Domenico, racial tensions were still running high.
“I [experienced] a lot of racial tensions; there were wealthy white South Africans and very poor Zulu South Africans,” Domenico said. “I lived with the Zulus… Being in that space for two years and just diplomatically defending my right to be there and slowly breaking down some of the animosity from the white community that I was feeling because I lived there really meant a lot to me. The attitude shifted a little bit and it just felt really good to be a part of it.”
Domenico said she thinks CU students’ dedication to community service is what draws them to volunteer in the Peace Corps. She said a person can learn a lot about him or herself by volunteering.
“I think the amount of responsibility that you take on to just better yourself and to really become a part of brand new very different community— if you can make it through that you can make it through anything,” she said. “I gained confidence that anything is possible and that even small acts of making a difference can make a pretty big difference. It confirmed my career path that I wanted to be involved in community service.”
Domenico is currently the director of the Volunteer Resource Center at CU.
Contact CU Independent Copy Editor Julie Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.