UO lands in the top 20 for its Peace Corps volunteers

Thirty-five UO graduates currently are serving in the Peace Corps

The University of Oregon landed at No. 16 in the nation for the number of Peace Corps volunteers from large universities in the United States. The university currently has 35 alumni volunteering with the organization worldwide.

The UO has ranked near the top among large universities for more than 10 years, ranking No. 10 in 2015 and 2012 and No. 8 in 2014 and 2013. This makes UO the only school in Oregon to rank in the top 25 for universities that have 15,000 or more undergraduate students enrolled.

“Students at UO should definitely consider a Peace Corps experience,” said Mindy Stutzman, a UO alumna and returned Peace Corps Philippines volunteer. “My experience in the Philippines has come into conversations at least once a month for the past 10 years, which I think demonstrates how relevant living abroad and learning a different culture is to being a good citizen anywhere.”

Among the UO grads now serving in the Peace Corps is Sara Oller, a 2015 graduate who is working in Botswana, a small country in southern Africa.

“I wanted to do more than just travel; I wanted to work and explore and learn about cultures on a genuine level,” Oller said before leaving on her assignment. “I can't imagine not pursuing this. I'm so thankful and blessed to have the life that I do and support from my loved ones.”

Oller will be working as a life skills volunteer, with the goal of increasing awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS — an epidemic that has affected about a quarter of the nation’s adult population. She’ll be working with guidance counselors in primary and secondary schools, putting on events, teaching classes and providing support to community members.

“I think that serving, in any sort of capacity, should be done by more people,” she said. “I think it's important for me to do my part in the world.”

Alumni from more than 3,000 colleges and universities nationwide have served in the Peace Corps since the agency’s founding in 1961, including 1,241 UO alumni. The UO joins two smaller Oregon schools — Willamette University and Lewis and Clark College — in the top colleges rankings, earning the state the distinction of being among only 15 states and the District of Columbia with three or more ranked schools.

“The Peace Corps is a unique opportunity for college graduates to put their education into practice and become agents of change in communities around the world,” Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “Today’s graduates understand the importance of intercultural understanding and are raising their hands in record numbers to take on the challenge of international service.”

By Lea Adamovic, Public Affairs Communications intern