UO jumps ahead in national Peace Corps university rankings

A Peace Corps volunteer working on an agricultural project in Africa.

More Ducks got on the Peace Corps train this year, pushing the University of Oregon to No. 11 nationally for the number of volunteers from large universities.

The 47 UO grads who signed up with the worldwide service organization easily topped the 35 who joined last year when the UO was ranked No. 16. The UO is the only Oregon school to appear at the top of any category this year.

Since the Peace Corps’ founding in 1961, 1,274 alumni from UO have traveled abroad to serve as volunteers. The Ducks have appeared on the top colleges list for more than a decade.

In 2016, Oregon was ranked No. 8 in the nation among states with the highest number of Peace Corps volunteers per capita.

UO alumna Briana Whitehead served as a Peace Corps agroforestry volunteer in Ghana from 2014 to 2016. Whitehead took advantage of UO’s international courses and a cultural exchange program before joining the Peace Corps.

“It is the single most life-changing experience I have had,” Whitehead said. “Never again will I see the world in the same light. My self-worth and determination to make a difference in this world has gone through the roof.”

Service in the Peace Corps is a life-defining, hands-on experience that offers volunteers the opportunity to travel to a community overseas and make a lasting difference in the lives of others.

“Peace Corps service is an unparalleled leadership opportunity that enables college and university alumni to use the creative-thinking skills they developed in school to make an impact in communities around the world,” acting Peace Corps Director Sheila Crowley said. “Many college graduates view the Peace Corps as a launching pad for their careers because volunteers return home with the cultural competency and entrepreneurial spirit sought after in most fields.”

The Peace Corps ranks its top volunteer-producing colleges and universities annually according to the size of the student body. The group’s website has the complete 2017 rankings of the top 25 schools in each category and an interactive map that shows where alumni from each college and university are serving.