UC Berkeley ranks sixth-highest in Peace Corps contributors

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UC Berkeley ranked sixth among large universities for producing Peace Corps volunteers in 2012, according to rankings released by the organization Tuesday.

UC Berkeley moved up three places higher than its ninth-place spot in 2011. The campus tied this year with UCLA for the sixth-place ranking among large universities, or those with more than 15,000 undergraduates. The University of Washington and University of Florida tied for first place among large colleges and universities, with each having 107 undergraduate alumni currently in service.

Campus Peace Corps recruiter Yune Lee said that the campus has a very service-oriented spirit that contributes to the school sending so many volunteers abroad.

“The spirit of public service on the campus and the focus on that kind of outreach from the very beginning,” Lee said. “When people come on campus as a freshman from the very beginning, there’s always the spirit of making a difference.”

Currently, 85 UC Berkeley alumni are volunteering at Peace Corps sites worldwide in the program’s six main areas: agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth in development.

According to the rankings, the campus has historically produced the most Peace Corps volunteers since the organization was founded in 1961, with more than 3,500 volunteers who graduated from UC Berkeley.

The Peace Corps is an independent U.S. government agency that provides trained volunteers to countries that want assistance throughout the world. Since being established in 1961, the program has sent more than 210,000 volunteers to countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and other spots throughout the world.

Volunteers typically serve for 27 months, comprising an average of 10 weeks of training and 24 months of service.

After completing her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley, Neoma Lavalle spent four years addressing water and sanitation issues in Honduras.

“I feel like UC Berkeley seems to attract a lot of undergraduates who are very idealistic and driven and adventurous,” Lavalle said. “The Peace Corps does a really excellent job at Berkeley of making themselves known and providing all sorts of activities for interested students to participate in.”

Justin Rausa, who received an undergraduate degree from UC Riverside, said his time at the Peace Corps influenced his decision to earn a master of public health degree from UC Berkeley.

“It would engage my desire to do social justice, but it would also give me 27 months to think about what my next life step would be, because at that time as an undergraduate, I didn’t know what my career would be,” Rausa said. “Every experience is going to be unique, and that’s both a challenge and the beauty of Peace Corps service for a volunteer.”

Mitchell Handler covers academics and administration. Contact him at [email protected]