UC Berkeley News
Web Feature

UC Berkeley Web Feature

Berkeley moving back up as source of Peace Corps volunteers

– On the Top 25 list of large schools that produce Peace Corps volunteers, UC Berkeley has moved up a notch to third place, with 82 alumni currently in service worldwide, according to 2006 rankings released this week by the Corps. And in a new Peace Corps category - volunteers with advanced degrees - Berkeley placed seventh, with 13 alumni volunteers.

Berkeley remains in first place, however, for producing the largest number of volunteers - 3,236 - throughout Peace Corps history. No other school has topped 3,000 volunteers, according to Corps data. The Peace Corps has enlisted 182,000 volunteers since its inception in 1961.

"UC Berkeley is slowing regaining its No. 1 position for the yearly rankings," said Veronica Standifird, a recruiter who staffs the Peace Corps' office on campus. Berkeley was last ranked No. 1 in 1984. Mike Bishop, acting director of the Cal Corps Public Service Center, added that Cal Corps is partnering with that office "to bring our current placement numbers in line with our historic standing."

For the 20th year in a row, the University of Wisconsin at Madison is the No. 1 producer of current Peace Corps volunteers, with 104 in service, according to the 2006 rankings. The University of Washington is second, with 102 alumni stationed around the world. UC Berkeley tied for third place with the University of Colorado at Boulder.

UC Berkeley is unique among many colleges and universities because it provides the Peace Corps with a diverse group of volunteers, said Standifird, who recruits volunteers from the East Bay, Davis, Sacramento, Chico, Nevada and Hawaii. Today's overall Peace Corps is 58 percent female, and minorities represent 16 percent of volunteers. But at UC Berkeley, she said, "We are very high in diversity recruiting. Of the 82 alumni serving this year, about 50 percent are minorities," including Asians, Latinos and African Americans.

The Peace Corps "wants to be the face of America, to send out volunteers that represent all parts of the United States - different ethnicities and backgrounds. It's a huge goal in D.C.," said Standifird. "California - and UC Berkeley, in particular - are in the forefront of trying to change the demographic."

When Standifird joined the Corps in 1993 as a UC Berkeley alumna and was sent to the Slovak Republic, she was the only minority in her group. "Why aren't you a blond?" she said she was asked. "'Baywatch' was their favorite TV program. When I told them I was half Mexican, they said, 'What's a Mexican?' I said, 'I'm a more typical American than you think.'"

In a Peace Corps news release issued this week, Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez praised all volunteers who make the 27-month commitment, working in an array of fields including education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, the environment and agriculture.

"The willingness of so many people to use their degrees and life experiences to share with other cultures is a commitment no one should overlook," he said. "There is no single path to success. But those who leave a legacy in a rural village in Madagascar or a city in Ukraine know the impact that Peace Corps can have not only in that community but also on the remainder of their own careers."

NOTE: The Peace Corps' recruitment office at UC Berkeley is in 505 Eschleman Hall. Recruiter Veronica Standifird can best be reached via e-mail at vstandifird@peacecorps.gov. Or, call (415) 977-8797 or (800) 424-8580, option 1, extension 8797.

More information:

  • The full 2006 "Top Producing Colleges and Universities" list is available on the Peace Corps Web site (PDF format).