By James Whitlow
For The Diamondback
The University of Maryland shot up to No. 11 on the Peace Corps’ annual list of top volunteer-producing large universities this year, seven places higher from last year’s placement, according to rankings released last month.
This university had 41 alumni currently volunteering abroad through the Peace Corps as of Sept. 30, 2015, said Bruno Veselic, a Peace Corps spokesman. The university has been climbing the rankings for three consecutive years, having sent 1,214 alumni to the Peace Corps in total.
The University of Washington topped the list with 72 current volunteers, according to a news release.
“I would have to say there’s definitely a lot of interest on campus,” said Anna Holland, the on-campus Peace Corps recruiter and a business and public policy graduate student. “There’s so many students who are interested in Peace Corps and do want to suss out if it’s right for them.”
Although Holland promotes the Peace Corps at university career fairs and panels in Stamp Student Union, she does not actively recruit students, as her title might imply. They generally come to her, she said.
“UMD students at College Park are very interested in giving back and making a difference and changing people’s lives,” she said.
Students who apply and volunteer for the Peace Corps are given three months of training before they are sent to their assigned countries to assist with agriculture, education and health-related issues.
Senior community health major and Peace Corps applicant Aiyana Taylor started volunteering through the Office of Leadership & Community Service-Learning at this university to help pad her resume, but she found the work deeply resonated with her. She decided she wants to eventually apply to the Peace Corps to see the world from a different perspective.
“I kind of want to just get out of the states and see what life is like on a day-to-day,” Taylor said. “I definitely want to challenge myself.”
Taylor said she hopes to formally join the Peace Corps by January 2017, motivated to join by her friends and from stories of her aunt’s experience through the organization in Gambia.
Volunteering through the LCSL office gave her necessary skills to be an aware, helpful volunteer, she said. Taylor said she was excited to see this university’s recruiting program climb in the ranking, and she hopes to see it go even further.
“It’s all about humility. It’s all about cultural competency,” she said.
The university provides several domestic and international opportunities to volunteer through the LCSL office — such as service trips to Haiti and tutoring first- and second-graders in Prince George’s County schools. Holland said the university encourages students to volunteer and, in turn, teaches them the value of helping others.
“Because the College Park campus does encourage so many students to get involved in the community and to get involved in volunteering from day one here on campus … they understand the importance of volunteering,” Holland said.
Any effort to recruit or encourage students to apply to the Peace Corps has made a difference in the university’s numbers, Veselic said.
“[The Peace Corps has] a pretty good recruitment presence on the campus,” he said.
The university has some more room to go before it can top the University of Washington’s ranking, but Holland said she is optimistic the university’s program will hit the top 10 with continuing interest.