Service and Commitment Beyond Graduation: U-Idaho Ranks 7th in Peace Corps Rankings

Wednesday, February 6 2013


By Amanda Cairo

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho has a long-standing tradition of opening doors for students to the world, and this year, that effort is being recognized as the university ranks seventh on the Peace Corps’ 2013 Top Colleges amongst medium-sizes schools.

“We are proud of taking our tradition of service learning and the spirit of helping others worldwide,” said University of Idaho President M. Duane Nellis. “We are pleased to see the great work our students do while at the university and as alumni.”

Currently, there are 33 undergraduate alumni serving in the Peace Corps; historically 521 Vandals have served overseas in the program. Graduating senior Alex Rheault, of Fargo, N.D., hopes to join the swelling ranks. She has been nominated to the national office and is waiting for an assignment for environmental education.

“I’ve volunteered all my life,“ said Rheault, an environmental science major with a Spanish minor. “I want to help people, bring ideas to another country to help them live in a more sustainable way. I really look forward to learning a lot from them as well.”

On a high school mission trip to Peru, Rheault saw firsthand the living conditions in a developing nation. The trip reinforced her desire to give her time, skills and resources to help other people, but not necessarily ”save” them.

University programs like the Alternative Service Break, Paint the Palouse and Saturday of Service helped Rheault solidify her desire to serve in the Peace Corps and help others while gaining invaluable experience. Currently, she serves as the volunteer coordinator at the Sustainability Center.

“It’s really getting me excited to go, especially when I see the joy when people volunteer,” said Rheault.

Rheault has several new experiences to look forward to. Marya Nowakowski, Peace Corps regional representative in Spokane, said that beyond learning a new language and culture and broadening their worldview, Peace Corps members receive technical training and leadership skills that will help them secure employment after their two-year term is up.

“One of the characteristics of students we meet at the University of Idaho is they have really good work experience and volunteer experience from home and on campus,” said Nowakowski, who was recently on the University of Idaho campus for its job fair. “There is real advocacy for hands-on experience and education.”

Currently, more than 8,000 volunteers are working with communities in 76 host countries on projects related to agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth development.

The annual list recognizes the highest volunteer-producing colleges and universities for small, medium, large and graduate institutions. While the University of Idaho ranked seventh for medium-sized colleges, 5,000–15,000 undergraduates, the university is in the top 10 with universities such as Western Washington University, American University, The George Washington University, Cornell University and Georgetown University.

“Every year, graduates of colleges and universities across the United States are making a difference in communities overseas through Peace Corps service,” said Carrie Hessler-Radelet, acting director for the Peace Corps. “As a result of the top-notch education they receive, these graduates are well prepared for the challenge of international service. They become leaders in their host communities and carry the spirit of service and leadership back with them when they return home.”

The University of Idaho is one of 23 universities from the West Coast producing globally-minded leaders who turn idealism into action as Peace Corps volunteers, according to Janet Allen, regional manager for the Peace Corps West Coast.

"Peace Corps announces ‘Top Colleges’ annually to recognize the schools that contribute the most alumni who are making a difference overseas through volunteer service," said Allen. "Personally, I'm thrilled to see the University of Idaho in the top 10 for the first time."

During Peace Corps service, college graduates make a difference in communities overseas. Volunteers return home as global citizens with cross-cultural, leadership, language, teaching and community development skills that position them for advanced education and professional opportunities in today’s global job market.
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About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho inspires students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. Through the university’s $225 million Inspiring Futures capital campaign, private giving will enhance student learning, faculty research and innovation, and a spirit of enterprise. Learn more: www.uidaho.edu.