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ASU among top schools for Peace Corps volunteers

February 09, 2010

With 43 alumni serving in 32 countries, Arizona State University has earned a spot on the annual list of “Peace Corps Top Colleges and Universities.” ASU ranks No. 24 nationally for large universities.

A Peace Corps Fair will be held in the ASU Memorial Union Arizona Ballroom March 4 from 4 to 7 p.m., featuring over 40 returned Peace Corps volunteers and their experiences from around the globe. The event is open to the public.

ASU has two master's degree programs that are partnerships with Peace Corps, in agribusiness and sustainability. Representatives from both of these programs will be available to share information on how students can pursue their master's and Peace Corps experience all at once. 

Torrey Cunningham, who graduated from ASU with a bachelor's degree in anthropology in 2002, was a Peace Corps volunteer for two years on the island of Kiribati, in the South Pacific. He assisted the head nurse for the island nation and also taught middle school English and math. He said the international experience changed the direction of his life.

“I wanted to do more to help people,” said Cunningham, who had been a field archaeologist, but became a Peace Corps recruiter after he returned. “I wanted to make an impact.” Currently he works for the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C.

Nadia Fazel is an ASU graduate student who returned almost two years ago from Cape Verde, West Africa, where she taught English to eighth graders and 10th graders the first year. In her second year as a Peace Corps volunteer she taught English literature at a teacher’s college.

“I liked that we were teaching people how to do things themselves, making a difference in a sustainable way,” she said. “It was a very good experience, though it’s rough while you’re there. You create this whole other life for yourself. It’s very rewarding.”

Chien-Fa Kao, 25, is an ASU graduate currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan. The Scottsdale resident has been working as an English teacher in Turkmenistan since September of 2008.

Since Peace Corps’ inception in 1961, 844 ASU alumni have served overseas with the corps. ASU currently has alumni serving in 32 of the 76 countries where Peace Corps works. The highest concentration of ASU graduates is in Morocco, with four, and Mongolia, with three. The majority of volunteers are working in education, health and business development.

The Peace Corps’ top colleges report ranks colleges and universities according to the size of the student body. This year’s top-ranked schools among large colleges and universities are the University of Washington, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of California at Berkeley, Michigan State and the University of Florida.

“For nearly 50 years, enthusiastic college alumni have contributed to the success of Peace Corps programs and our mission to promote world peace and friendship in host communities around the world,” said Aaron S. Williams, director of the Peace Corps. “Peace Corps service is a life-changing leadership opportunity and a great career foundation in almost every field, ranging from international development, education, public health, engineering, agriculture and law, to name a few.”

In 2009, Peace Corps received more than 15,000 applications – an 18 percent increase over 2008. This is the largest number of applications since the agency began electronically recording applications in 1998.