UW-Madison regains top ranking in recruiting Peace Corps Volunteers

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 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.

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.”

LARGE_1_Wisconsin_v2 (2)“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 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.

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. The top 25 ranking in each of these categories may be viewed on this Peace Corps webpage.

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.

Graduating college students are encouraged to apply by March 1 (Peace Corps Day), for remaining assignment openings for 2014, and the chance to be considered for programs in early 2015.

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., Medical Sciences Center, Room 1010.

Other general information sessions are scheduled on Wednesday, March 26, at Union South, and Wednesday, April 23, 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, 716 Langdon St., during office hours (Tuesdays 10 a.m.-noon, Wednesdays noon-2 p.m.) .

-by Kerry G. Hill

50+ Years of Engagement: Peace Corps & UW–Madison

The University of Wisconsin–Madison has been strongly connected and engaged with the Peace Corps from the agency’s creation in 1961.

Joseph Kauffman, who worked with R. Sargent Shriver to establish the Peace Corps and was its first training director (1961-63), served as UW–Madison’s Dean of Students and as a professor of counseling and behavioral studies in the School of Education. Kauffman was instrumental in establishing recruitment for the Peace Corps on the Madison campus.

From the earliest days, UW–Madison has been a leading source of Peace Corps volunteers. A May 1969 article in Wisconsin Alumnus notes that UW–Madison had provided 500 volunteers in the first eight years of the agency, second only to the University of California-Berkeley overall.

The article – $75 a Month, Plus Pride – also reports that:

  • Along with Kauffman, UW President Fred H. Harrington served on the Peace Corps National Advisory Council.
  • “A hefty number of faculty members have served as Peace Corps staffers in Washington and abroad (two were overseas country directors), and another substantial lot have participated in the more than 40 training programs held on one or another of the University’s campuses.”

Notable Returned Peace Corps Volunteers with UW-Madison connections include:

  • Donna Shalala, UW–Madison chancellor 1988-93, served in Iran (1962–64)
  • Aaron S. Williams, who received his MBA from UW–Madison, served in the Dominican Republic (1967-70) and as director of the Peace Corps (2009-12)
  • Jim Doyle, Wisconsin governor 2003-11, and his wife, Jessica Laird Doyle, both UW–Madison alumni, served together in Tunisia (1967–69)
  • John Torphy, UW–Madison vice chancellor for administration 1989-2003, served in the Dominican Republic
  • William A. Bablitch, a member of the Wisconsin State Senate (1972-83) and Wisconsin Supreme Court (1983-2003), served in Liberia, West Africa (1963-65)
  • Anthony Carroll, vice president/ managing director of Manchester Trade Ltd., UW-Madison alumnus, served in Africa (1976-78), served as assistant general counsel of the Peace Corps (1986-89), senior legal adviser to the Peace Corps director with special emphasis on global health and Africa programming, and as a member of Peace Corps Medical Review Board