Each morning, University of Colorado at Boulder alumna Julie Fast wakes to the footsteps of "campesinos" hiking past her front door in Peru on their way to their farm fields.
Fast is one of 2,252 CU-Boulder alumni who have served in the Peace Corps since its inception nearly 50 years ago. With 95 alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers in 2010, CU-Boulder is again ranked No. 2 in the nation for large schools, the Peace Corps announced today.
"The Peace Corps is just one way in which CU students are able to get out there and participate in service learning," said Evan Taylor, director of the CU-Boulder Peace Corps recruiting office.
The University of Washington holds the top rank for large schools, with 101 graduates serving as Peace Corps volunteers. Also placing in the top five were the University of California, Berkeley with 89, Michigan State University with 86 and the University of Florida with 79.
CU-Boulder has a long history of graduating service-oriented students. In 2008, it was one of only three colleges and universities in the United States to receive a Presidential Award for General Community Service. And each year, more than 13,000 CU-Boulder students participate in some form of community service, according to Peter Simons, director of CU-Boulder's Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement.
"Graduating civic-minded students is part of our mission at CU-Boulder, and is a key component to our work at the Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement," Simons said. "We are very pleased to retain our position as the No. 2 Peace Corps university in the country."
The Peace Corps ranks its top volunteer-producing schools annually according to the size of the student body. Large schools have more than 15,000 undergraduates, medium-sized schools have between 5,000 and 15,000 undergraduates, and small schools have less than 5,000 undergraduates. George Washington University ranked first among medium-sized schools with 53 graduates currently serving and St. Olaf College ranked highest among small schools with 26 graduates serving.
"CU helped prepare me for the Peace Corps by not only having the available resources to encourage my application, such as a campus recruiting office and vast alumni network, but also by providing a university environment conducive to volunteerism and sustainability," said Fast, who graduated from CU-Boulder in May 2008 with a bachelor's degree in integrative physiology. She has been serving in Peru since October 2008.
When asked what it is about CU that attracts service-oriented students, Kevin Wheeler, a CU-Boulder and Peace Corps alumnus, said a number of factors contribute.
"CU does a good job of fostering an environment of service," he said. "We have a lot of student organizations that try to tap into cultures around the world and it seems like many of the people who come here already have strong idealistic purposes. There's definitely something about CU that I think motivates people to serve outside of the borders of our country."
Wheeler graduated from CU-Boulder in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, and completed his master's degree in the same field in 2000. He served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic from 2002 to 2004.
"For nearly 50 years, enthusiastic college alumni have contributed to the success of Peace Corps programs and our mission to promote world peace and friendship in host communities around the world," said Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams. "Peace Corps service is a life-changing leadership opportunity and a great career foundation in almost every field."
Currently, there are 7,671 Peace Corps volunteers serving in 76 host countries around the world. A college degree is not mandatory for service but relevant experience in areas such as education, health, business, information technology, environment and agriculture is required. In 2009, the Peace Corps received more than 15,000 applications, an 18 percent increase over 2008. This is the largest number of applications since the agency began electronically recording applications in 1998.
To read first-person accounts from CU-Boulder alumni and current Peace Corps volunteers Kristin Mayer, serving in South Africa, and Fast, serving in Peru, visit www.colorado.edu/news/reports/peacecorps2010/. To watch a video on CU-Boulder's connection to the Peace Corps visit www.colorado.edu/news.
For more information about the Peace Corps, call the campus recruiting office at 303-492-8454 or visit www.colorado.edu/iece/peacecorps/index.html.