For the second consecutive year the University of Colorado Boulder is ranked No. 1 in the nation for graduates serving in the Peace Corps.
The work of our graduates in developing communities around the world is tangible evidence of something we have always known: Our students and alumni are service-oriented, down-to-earth and engaged in the world. It emphasizes that CU’s civically engaged students go on to become global citizens.
Two dozen former CU-Boulder Peace Corps volunteers, from 86-year-old Sally Lazar to 24-year-old Kristen Mayer, returned to campus last week to help us celebrate the announcement by U.S. Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams.
Sally volunteered in Africa the first year the Peace Corps was created in 1961, and again when she was 60.
Kristen recently returned from teaching literacy in elementary schools in a rural village in South Africa on the outskirts of the Kalahari Desert, where a family of 14 hosted her. She began her service shortly after her graduation in 2009.
She notes that 15 years after apartheid there remains a distrust of white people and she had to overcome perceptions as an outsider. She found that her impoverished students were so unfamiliar with books that they held them upside down to read.
Jessica Duncan served in Mali, West Africa from 2009 until August 2011 and was immediately struck by the amount of trash on the streets. She created a community project recycling plastic trash into colorful handbags sold at local markets, creating small business development and a sense of purpose and entrepreneurship while cleaning up the streets. Her efforts inspired one Mali family to name a baby in her honor.
“That is the power of the Peace Corps,” Director Williams said. “One person can make a difference.”
Our legacy in the Peace Corps is as old as the Peace Corps itself. More than 2,300 alumni have served in the Peace Corps since it was established in 1961, fifth among all universities nationally. Our graduates have been in the top three for service annually since 2004.
Why is CU-Boulder so highly ranked in Peace Corps service year-in and year-out?
Students at CU have a hunger to seize the moment, a thirst for getting outside their comfort zone and a sense of adventure. Successful Peace Corps volunteers are flexible, adapt quickly and have a passion to learn and give — the profile of a CU-Boulder graduate.
“The great spirit of volunteerism and internationalism inherent on this campus creates an environment conducive to Peace Corps service,” Ms. Mayer theorized.
“There is such a special civic pride on this campus,” Director Williams said.
“As CU-Boulder students you are already on the launch pad to the future because you are enrolled and studying at this magnificent institution of higher learning,” Williams said during the announcement. “Whether your passions and talents lead you to the Peace Corps or other endeavors, I can’t wait to see the contributions I know you are going to make. You should be very proud to come from a campus that inspires so much public service and collectively works to build a better world.”
Philip P. DiStefano is chancellor of the University of Colorado Boulder.