By MAGGIE KARRS
The University of Mary Washington placed third in the 2012 Peace Corps rankings for graduates currently serving the corps, marking its third year in the top three ranked small schools.
UMW currently has 21 alumni serving in the Peace Corps, as compared to top ranking small school Gonzaga, which has 24 volunteers, and second place Saint Olaf’s College, with 22. The third place rank is a drop from UMW’s first place standing in 2011 and 2012.
The news came in a phone call press conference from acting Director of the Peace Corps Carrie Hessler-Radelet on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
She commented that serving in the Peace Corps “prepares graduates to be global citizens,” and stated that one important characteristic for someone choosing to join is “a good sense of humor.”
Hessler-Radelet stressed the importance of having field based, or on-campus, representatives when focusing on recruitment to the corps.
When asked about UMW’s involvement in the service, Hessler-Radelet remarked that, “Mary Washington is a school that though it’s very small, has a great faculty. Students are prepared for a global economy. The faculty and administration and especially career services recognize the value of the Peace Corps.”
Commenting on the school’s accomplishment, David Rettinger, executive director for the university’s Center for Honor, Leadership and Service said, “We’re very excited, of course, but not surprised entirely, because we have a great culture for service.”
Rettinger also noted that last year UMW students logged almost 14,000 hours of service. These include hours from COAR, service learning courses and athletics, and that work created an economic impact of over $300,000.
“Out of all the rankings UMW could get that’s one of the most impressive for me. It makes me happy to be at this school,” senior geography major Anna Smith said about the ranking.
Other students, like freshman Sarah Grammer, noted that the ranking merely reflected their own ambitions. “I’m planning on possibly entering the Peace Corps myself,” Grammer commented.
The annual college rankings for the Peace Corps are broken down into four categories: large colleges, mid-size colleges, small colleges and graduate universities. Large universities are schools with more than 15,000 students, mid-size schools have between 5,000 and 15,000 students and small schools have less than 5,000 students.
This year, schools from the state of Washington topped all the undergraduate categories, with the University of Washington, Western Washington University and Gonzaga University being first in the large, mid-size, and small college categories, respectively. The University of Florida in Gainesville came out on top in the graduate school rankings.
The 21 former UMW students currently in service are working in 17 different countries. A total of 230 alumni have joined the Peace Corps.
According to the Peace Corps website, since President John F. Kennedy established the service organization in 1961, more than 210,000 Americans have served in 139 different host countries. Joining the Peace Corps is a 27-month commitment and applicants must be at least 18 years of age. Volunteers can work in different capacities, such as agriculture, community and economic development, education, environment and health.
Students applying to leave in early 2014 must have their application in by Feb. 28.