Three Washington state colleges swept the nation in their respective size categories for having the most PCVs in the Peace Corps. It’s the first time WWU has been ranked No. 1 and the fifth time for the University of Washington. Five other universities in Washington also made the Peace Corps 2013 Top Colleges rankings, all in the small school category: Seattle University (No. 5, 19mora20623_small alumni currently serving), University of Puget Sound (No. 8, 18 alumni), Evergreen State College (No. 8, 16 alumni), Whitman College (No. 8, 16 alumni), Pacific Lutheran University (No. 18, 15 alumni). The full top 25 rankings for each school size category - plus all-time and graduate school rankings - can be found on the Peace Corps website: www.peacecorps.gov

Gonzaga University climbed to No. 1 nationwide among small colleges and universities whose graduates serve in the Peace Corps. Twenty-four Gonzaga undergraduate alumni are serving overseas as Peace Corps volunteers, lifting Gonzaga’s historical total to 311 alumni with Peace Corps service.

“Today’s announcement underscores the commitment of Gonzaga’s graduates to work toward a world of peace, justice and greater understanding among people around the world,” said President McCulloh. “Our graduates demonstrate every day that our tradition is one of transformation - both institutionally in educating people for others, and individually, as students and alumni carry their inspired missions into many career fields.”

Gonzaga is also among a group of some 80 schools nationwide to offer a Master’s International program in collaboration with the Peace Corps.

The Peace Corps ranks Top Colleges annually according to schools’ enrollments. Small schools have less than 5,000 undergraduates, medium-sized schools have between 5,000 and 15,000 undergraduates and large schools have more than 15,000 undergraduates. Rankings are calculated based on fiscal year 2012 data as of September 30, 2012 as self-reported by Peace Corps volunteers.

“Peace Corps announces Top Colleges annually to recognize the schools that contribute the most alumni who are making a difference overseas through volunteer service,” said Peace Corps West Coast Regional Manager Janet Allen. “Having Washington state be the home to all three No. 1 schools is a coup of which I’m especially proud. We thank and congratulate University of Washington, Western Washington University and Gonzaga University for producing globally-minded leaders who turn idealism into action as Peace Corps Volunteers.”

Janet Allen should take a lot of credit for this success. It was her staff of RPCV recruiters who did the heavy work of visiting these colleges and selling the idea of joining the Peace Corps.

Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, on her way home from Asia,  stopped off in Seattle to congratulate the winning schools. Inuswa6091_small Seattle Carrie said, ” to me this makes Washington  a very special place.  It is a very globally-minded state, it has very progressive leadership … it clearly leads the country in terms of its commitment to the environment. As for the students,  as a result of the top-notch education they receive, they are well prepared for the challenge of international service.”

Among some recent graduates is  Samantha Russell who graduated two years ago from Western Washington University and took her background in marine biology to Fiji where she has planted mangroves on the shoreline, helped farm sea cucumbers and moved pigpens away from the ocean to prevent polluting runoff. Russell, who is 24, lives on the island of Ovalau in Fiji, where she is working to prevent overfishing and environmental damage to the South Pacific coral reefs. She is also helping to convert pig waste into usable fertilizer for organic farms, planted coral in the ocean, done beach cleanup and waste management, and helping set up fish-farming pens.imagescaurhq37

Overfishing and environmental damage, some of which is caused by global warming, have degraded the reef, making it harder for families to gather enough food and sometimes causing disease outbreaks.

“Years ago, one hour of fishing could have provided food for multiple families,” she wrote via email. “Now we go out for entire nights to provide the same amount of fish.”

The UW is a repeat winner - it also topped the large-schools list between 2007 and 2010. This year it shared  the honor with the University of Florida by sending 107 graduates apiece to work overseas. Western Washington University sent 73 students, making it the leader among medium-sized schools, and, again, Gonzaga led the nation among small schools, with 24 graduates serving.

Another Washington school, Seattle University, came in fifth among small schools, with 19 volunteers.

“The Peace Corps has been ranking schools for 10 years as a way to recognize those institutions that do the most to advance the mission of promoting world peace and friendship. This rating system was initiated by Peace  Corps Director Mark Gearan in the mid-nineties.

About 12,000 apply every year, and about 4,000 are accepted.

Today the agency has 8,073 Volunteers in 76 countries. About 90 percent of volunteers have bachelor’s degrees. Currently the oldest Volunteer in the Peace Corps is 85.