The Peace Corps Announces the 2014 Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities

[This recognition of top producing colleges and universities recruitment was established by Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan (1995-99). This recognition  was the first time since the early years and Blitz Recruiting, created by Bob Gale, that the agency has focused on colleges campuses, the source of the majority of all PCVs.]

Peace Corps Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 11, 2014 – For the first time in eight years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison leads Peace Corps’ 2014 rankings of the top volunteer-producing colleges and universities with 90 alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers. The school has long been one of the nation’s greatest recruiters, most recently holding the No. 1 spot from 2001 through 2006, and has been working to reclaim the top spot ever since. Western Washington University and Gonzaga University top the rankings of medium and small schools for the second consecutive year, with 65 and 22 currently serving graduates, respectively.peace-corps-icon2

The University of Washington and the University of Florida again tie – as they did in 2013 – this time for second place among large schools, each with 85 undergraduate alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers. Among medium-sized schools, the University of Virginia and American University come in second and third, with 44 and 43 undergraduate alumni in service, respectively. Making its first appearance in the Top Colleges rankings, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry claims the No. 2 spot among small schools, with 17 currently serving alumni, and Carleton College jumps five spots from No. 8 in 2013 to No. 3 this year with 16 graduates in service.

“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,” Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “The unique Peace Corps experience helps recent graduates cultivate highly sought-after skills that will launch their careers in today’s global economy.”

College graduates with Peace Corps volunteer experience return home with a competitive edge for 21st century jobs and advanced educational opportunities. They have cross-cultural, leadership, language and community development skills along with a global perspective. They give back to their communities here in the United States and enrich the lives of those around them, helping to strengthen international ties and increase our country’s global competitiveness.

Hessler-Radelet will visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison today to celebrate the school’s No. 1 ranking and long-time support of the Peace Corps. The University is historically the second-highest producer of Peace Corps volunteers in the country, with more than 3,100 alumni who have served. The University of California, Berkeley maintains the top all-time spot. Among graduate schools, the University of Denver leads the rankings with 23 currently serving volunteers, climbing up from second place in 2013.carriehradelet_portrait-20121

Below is a list of the top five colleges and universities in each undergraduate category, as well as the rankings for graduate schools and the all-time highest volunteer-producing schools. Find the complete 2014 rankings of the top 25 schools in each undergraduate categoryhere. View the Peace Corps’ 2014 Top Colleges infographic here.

Large Colleges & Universities – Total Volunteers:
More than 15,000 undergraduates

1. University of Wisconsin-Madison (90)
2. University of Washington (85)
2. University of Florida (85)
4. The Ohio State University (83)
5. University of Michigan (81)

Medium Colleges & Universities – Total Volunteers:
Between 5,000 and 15,000 undergraduates

1. Western Washington University (65)
2. University of Virginia (44)
3. American University (43)
4. The George Washington University (41)
5. Cornell University (29)
5. The University of Vermont (29)

Small Colleges & Universities – Total Volunteers:
Less than 5,000 undergraduates

1. Gonzaga University (22)
2. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (17)
3. Carleton College (16)
3. Macalester College (16)
3. Pacific Lutheran University (16)

Graduate Schools – Total Volunteers:

1. University of Denver (23)
2. University of Washington (20)
2. Tulane University (20)
4. University of Florida (17)
5. University of Pittsburgh (13)
5. University of Minnesota Twin Cities (13)
5. University of South Florida (13)
5. The University of Texas at Austin (13)

Historical, Since 1961 – Total Volunteers:

1. University of California, Berkeley (3,576)
2. University of Wisconsin-Madison (3,112)
3. University of Washington (2,840)
4. University of Michigan (2,556)
5. University of Colorado Boulder (2,385)


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  • Fascinating, I see universities from the West Coast, Midwest and South. Where are the east coast universities?

  • Interesting data that may reflect recruiting efforts as much as anything about the institutional culture. What also would be interesting, and this would involve going way beyond this compilation, would be to analyze the value-added impact of the Peace Corps experience, i.e., controlling for all relevant variables, to what extent does the Peace Corps experience translate into some measure of higher long-term earnings. That seems contrary to the philosophy of the Peace Corps, but it may say something about motivational impact. Still more elusive would be a metric that calibrates the income effect of a former PCV on a particular community, be that in the U.S. or beyond. In this latter context, many returned PCV’s can point to how their former students, or target population, went on to achieve higher levels of income than those for which that experience did not occur. As a former teacher, I still am in touch with former students who are now in the U.S. and find that so many wound up in better than average paying professions.

    All of this reminds me also of studies on achievement motivation. Years ago, when David Berlew was Peace Corps director in Ethiopia in the 1960’s, he helped psychologist David McClelland, his former mentor at Harvard, to come to the Gurage village of Emdeber, where I was stationed, to conduct tests on “n-ach”, that elusive metric of whether imagery, a mix of verbal cognates, and the like, could predict future success.

    I never saw the results of the testing done in the Emdeber public school, but found the effort to discover, and predict, such an outcome an interesting one. If there was a reason why Emdeber was chosen, it was in part because Peace Corps volunteer teachers were stationed there and because as the informal capitol of the Gurage, it symbolized the reputation of the Gurage as hard working high achieving people, and as a distinct minority in Ethiopia’s broader culture.

    In any such research and speculations, what also is important is to keep a healthy degree of speculation as to whether there is some root cause grounded in a factor such as language, religion, social organization, or culture broadly defined. Today, it still is a topic of abiding interest in the form of entrepreneurial studies.

    For me, the classic work on entrepreneurship still is Joseph Schumpeter’s The Theory of Economic Development, written in German when he was 28 years old while still living in his native Austria. Schumpeter’s essay is not a tract about real estate as much as it is about who becomes an entrepreneur and why. Schumpeter later came to the U.S. and spent the rest of his career at Harvard. Redvers Olpie produced an English translation in 1934 and the book is still in print.

    Schumpeter characterizes an entrepreneur is a non-conformist individual who rebels against the established order. The motivation for innovation stems from such psychological factors as the desire to create something long-lasting, in addition to creating the illusion of immortality. Making money is only a side result rather than the root cause.

    When we think of the likes of Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, and Bill Gates today, all three were college dropouts who were obsessed with the idea of doing something different than what had gone on before. In that quest, the idea of teaching courses in entrepreneurship is an oxymoron, even though it is done in that ever elusive quest for the magic insight. For Schumpeter, though, who becomes an entrepreneur is not ethnic, religious, or inherited. It is simply a quirk in human behavior that can flourish at a particular moment in time but may not continue to do so in other circumstances.

    Thomas Edison, both an inventor and entrepreneur, had a long winning streak in him, whereas Bill Gates eventually began to burn out. And so the story goes. So maybe one of these days we might come across some study on entrepreneurship and achievement that will uncover universal traits, even if these behavioral characteristics are not subject to some standard academic enterprise or discipline.

    Phillip LeBel

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