More Sun Devils than ever are serving in countries around the globe
Breanna Gonzalez was 11 years old when she decided to one day join the Peace Corps.
“I don’t even remember where I heard about it, but all I know was that adolescent decision changed my life forever,” she said.
When Gonzalez came to Arizona State University in 2013 to double major in global studies and transborder community development and health, the ample resources and helpful recruiters only solidified her desire to volunteer for the agency.
Today, she is one of more than 1,145 ASU alumni who have served abroad as Peace Corps volunteers since its founding in 1961, and the university is No. 8 among large schools on the agency’s list of top volunteer-producing colleges and universities in 2020.
ASU’s leap to No. 8 from its No. 17 ranking last year reflects the largest cohort of Sun Devils serving to date, with a total of 59 serving around the globe. The university has been a top school for more than 10 years.
“These schools are institutions that emphasize being global citizens and service-minded students,” said Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen in a press release Wednesday. “I am excited to know the graduates coming from Peace Corps’ Top Colleges are using their skills to make a positive impact on their communities at home and abroad.”
The Peace Corps ranks its top volunteer-producing colleges and universities annually according to the size of the student body. ASU is in the large colleges and universities group.
Large Colleges & Universities – Total Volunteers: More than 15,000 Undergraduates
1. University of Wisconsin-Madison – 79
2. University of Florida – 70
3. University of Virginia – 68
4. University of Maryland – College Park – 66
5. University of Georgia – 64
6. Ohio State University – 62
7. University of Minnesota – 60
8. Arizona State University – 59
9. University of California, Berkeley – 56
10. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – 55
Gonzalez is in the process of becoming an elementary school teacher after more than two years working as a community health promoter in the Cutervo Province in Peru. What she learned there about the power of community is at the forefront of her mind as she takes this next step.
“I could have gotten nothing done in two years if it weren’t for the openness and motivated spirit of the community. In work, in life, you cannot get anywhere if it is not for some greater purpose than yourself. My Peace Corps service was not for me; it was not for me to prove my knowledge to people, it was not for me to tough it out. My Peace Corps service was only what it was because people graciously invited me into their community and had ideas, projects and classes they wanted help with,” Gonzalez said.
“My future students will be the reason I have a good lesson, a happy classroom, etc. Basically, I learned the firsthand meaning of the phrase, ‘It takes a village,’ day in and day out, and I am so grateful for that experience.”
As a student at ASU, Gonzalez completed the Peace Corps Prep Certificate, which guarantees students take classes on cultural competency, diversity, language and other essential tools needed for Peace Corps service.
The university also offers returned Peace Corps volunteers an opportunity to continue their service to underserved communities while pursuing graduate studies at a reduced cost through the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program. Graduate degrees in engineering, education, global technology and development, business and several liberal arts disciplines are offered through the Coverdell Program.
In addition, ASU’s partnership with Peace Corps includes the study abroad seminar, “A Taste of Peace Corps”; a host of Peace Corps recruitment representatives dedicated to the university and the state of Arizona as a whole; and numerous Returned Peace Corps Volunteer faculty and staff who take the extra step of “bringing their service home” by sharing their experiences with the students they interact with each day.
The news about ASU’s rise in the rankings comes in the middle of the university’s Peace Corps Week, where it celebrates all future, current and returned volunteers who have taken up the call to serve. Signature events include: “Peace and Pastries,” an informal meet-and-greet with Peace Corps representatives taking place today, Feb. 26, from 10 a.m. to noon at Changemaker Central in the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus; and “Journey Around the World,” featuring booths manned by Peace Corps volunteers who share about their experience, projects, host families and more from their host country, taking place Thursday, Feb. 27, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., outside the Student Pavilion on the Tempe campus.
“We are grateful for the partnership with Peace Corps, because it allows our students to showcase the best of who we are as Sun Devils and Americans,” said Julia Tebben, assistant director of Career and Professional Development Services at ASU. “The remarkable work being undertaken by our alumni around the globe is both hands-on and community driven. For most, they were able to cultivate these passions for education, sustainability, health, etc. right here at ASU through their academics and interactions with like-minded individuals.”
Top five schools in other categories
Medium Colleges & Universities – Total Volunteers: Between 5,000 and 15,000 undergraduates
1. George Washington University – 62
2. American University – 48
3. College of William and Mary – 46
4. University of Vermont – 45
5. Tulane University – 34
Small Colleges & Universities – Total Volunteers: Fewer than 5,000 undergraduates
1. St. Lawrence University – 19
2. Dartmouth College – 15
3. Eckerd College – 14
4. Bucknell University – 13 (tied)
4. Allegheny – 13 (tied)
4. Whitman College – 13 (tied)
Graduate Schools – Total Volunteers:
1. George Washington University – 14
2. New York University – 11 (tied)
2. Tulane University – 11 (tied)
2. University of South Florida –11 (tied)
2. University of Washington – 11 (tied)
Historical, Since 1961:
1. University of California - Berkeley – 3,741
2. University of Wisconsin - Madison – 3,369
3. University of Washington – 3,101
4. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor – 2,775
5. University of Colorado - Boulder – 2,556
*Rankings are calculated based on fiscal year 2019 data as of Sept. 30, 2019, as self-reported by Peace Corps volunteers.
View the complete 2020 rankings of the top 25 schools.
About the Peace Corps
The Peace Corps sends Americans with a passion for service abroad on behalf of the United States to work with communities and create lasting change. Volunteers develop sustainable solutions to address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, the environment and youth development. Through their Peace Corps experience, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a lifelong commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today's global economy. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 240,000 Americans of all ages have served in 142 countries worldwide. For more information, visit peacecorps.gov and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Top photo: ASU alum Breanna Gonzalez (middle with hat) visits a family in Peru while serving as a community health promoter during her time as a volunteer in the Peace Corps. Photo courtesy Breanna Gonzalez.