For the second year in a row, the University of Minnesota has the third highest number of graduates who signed on to be Peace Corps volunteers.
Seventy 2016 U graduates joined the Peace Corps — behind the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s 87 and the University of Washington’s 73.
Since 2010, the University has been in the top 20 colleges in terms of Peace Corps volunteers. The University’s 70 volunteers is its highest number since 2008, when 71 graduates became volunteers.
Geoff Wilson, a 2004 University psychology graduate, worked with Minneapolis Public Schools immediately after graduating but always knew he wanted to be a Peace Corps volunteer.
“I wanted … to step outside to really see things from a different perspective,” Wilson said.
Wilson volunteered between 2007 and 2009 in Romania, working with local nonprofits.
“I really credit my service for where I’m at today,” Wilson said. He now works for College Possible, a nonprofit organization that works with low-income students to prepare college applications.
The Peace Corps is a service opportunity where volunteers go abroad for two years and work with local communities on education, infrastructure and development initiatives while learning the local language and culture.
“Peace Corps seeks the best and brightest to make a difference through international service and create sustainable change,” said Kiiva Williams, a Peace Corps spokesperson.
In 2010, the University started a Master’s program in collaboration with the Peace Corps to provide graduate students with field experience abroad.
Leah Mowery, president of the student group Peace Corps Ambassadors, said there will be a send-off event in April for all volunteers accepted from the Midwest.
Wilson and Mowery said the importance of service is heightened especially given today’s political climate.
Wilson said volunteering abroad helped him make connections and friendships with people he never would have met otherwise.
“Your cultural similarities become more than your differences,” he said.
Mowery said volunteering and serving time abroad through the Peace Corps shows the rest of the world that Americans care, adding that she plans on volunteering with the Peace Corps after her graduation.
“It’s more important than ever to show that we care,” Mowery said. “It’s important to show that we still care about other countries and we still want to make a difference in their lives.”