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UW-Madison reaches 3,000 in total Peace Corps volunteers produced

January 25, 2012 By Kerry Hill

The University of Wisconsin–Madison this year ranks third among large universities nationwide in the number of alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers, up from eighth last year.

The 9,095 Peace Corps volunteers now working with local communities in 75 countries include 107 UW–Madison alumni — 16 more than last year and just five below the top spot.

UW-Madison also marks a milestone this year, with a total of 3,000 alumni who have served in the Peace Corps since President John F. Kennedy created the agency in 1961. Only the University of California, Berkeley has produced more volunteers, with 3,497.

UW-Madison has ranked high on the Peace Corps’ Top Colleges and Universities list for 12 years in a row, ever since the annual ranking system began, including six years (2001-06) in the No. 1 spot. This year, the top spots belong to the University of Colorado at Boulder (112) and the University of Washington (110).

In the agency’s history, 5,630 Wisconsin residents have served as volunteers, with 229 currently in the field.

“Every day, volunteers make countless contributions to projects in agriculture, education, the environment, health and HIV/AIDS education and prevention, small business development, and youth development. I would like to extend my gratitude to all colleges and universities for their continued support of the Peace Corps and public service,” says Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams, who received his MBA from UW–Madison.

Last March, UW–Madison marked the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps with a celebration hosted by the African Studies Program and attended by Williams, who served with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic (1967-70).

While here, he talked about what makes his alma mater a top Peace Corps institution:

“Because it is a global institution, the University of Wisconsin–Madison has a diverse student body, an outstanding faculty, and recruits some of the top students in the nation to come here. This university is interested in providing international opportunities for its students. All of that continues to make the University of Wisconsin–Madison an important partner for the Peace Corps.”

Gilles Bousquet, vice provost and dean of the Division of International Studies, recalls the poignant ceremony where Williams personally handed out placements to new Peace Corps recruits, before an audience that included many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers.

“The passion for the Peace Corps and its mission was apparent, and the event was incredibly moving,” Bousquet says. “The desire of those involved to improve the lives of people around the world through public service embodies the core values that we call the Wisconsin Idea.”

He adds that the local Returned Peace Corps Volunteers group has played an important role in promoting Peace Corps service here.

Currently, the Peace Corps is seeking applicants with skills in agriculture, environment, education, teaching English as a second language, and French language.

Benefits offered with Peace Corps service include graduate school programs, paid living expenses, full health and dental coverage, readjustment allowance, federal employment advantage, and field experience and cross-cultural skills. Applicants are encouraged to apply one year in advance of their targeted departure date.

At UW–Madison, the Peace Corps works with the Division of International Studies to host an on-campus recruiter, Kimberly Johnson, a graduate student who served with the Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea.

Four Peace Corps information sessions are scheduled this semester, on Wednesday, Jan. 25, Wednesday, Feb. 15, Wednesday, March 7 and Wednesday, April 18-in the first floor Media Room at the Red Gym, 716 Langdon St., at 6 p.m.

Individuals who want to learn more also can meet with Johnson during office hours (Mondays, 9-11 a.m. and Wednesdays 10 a.m.-noon) in the Red Gym, Room 149, near the Morgridge Center for Public Service. Johnson also may be contacted by phone (608-262-1121) or by email (

More information is available on the UW-Madison Peace Corps website and Facebook page