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Peace Corps volunteer Marissa Falk in her community in Cameroon. Image courtesy Marissa FalkANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan ranked 5th nationally among the top volunteer-producing large universities for the Peace Corps, with 81 graduates—such as Marissa Falk, who is in Cameroon—currently serving in the agency.
This is the 14th consecutive year that U-M has earned a spot on the Peace Corps' annual list. Since the agency was created 53 years ago, 2,556 Michigan alums have served overseas, making U-M the No. 4 all-time producer of Peace Corps volunteers.
U-M alum Falk of Madison, Wis., has been serving as a health volunteer in Cameroon since September 2012. Falk is working with women in her community to create a soy café with goals to combat malnutrition, provide an income-generation opportunity, and challenge gender stereotypes by allowing the women to assume professional responsibilities.
Many experiences at U-M—including being a member of the Residential College, living in the student cooperative Michigan House and studying abroad in Senegal—prepared Falk for the Peace Corps.
"Participating in the Peace Corps has helped me to explore the meaning of fortune. My fortune in Cameroon comes from friendship that is given generously," said Falk, who earned her degree in the Program in the Environment in 2008. "It comes by way of smiles from strangers and from kind, listening ears. Fortune is based on love. And how fortunate I am to have so much love on both sides of the sea."
Service in the Peace Corps is a life-defining, hands-on leadership experience that offers volunteers the opportunity to travel to the farthest corners of the world and work on sustainable development projects related to agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth development.
"The same passion that launched the Peace Corps more than 50 years ago fuels progress in developing countries today, thanks to the leadership and creativity that college graduates bring to their Peace Corps service," said Carrie Hessler-Radelet, acting director of the Peace Corps. "The unique Peace Corps experience helps recent graduates cultivate highly sought-after skills that will launch their careers in today's global economy."
Peace Corps makes a difference not only to the communities served, but also to the volunteers themselves, who return home as global citizens with cross-cultural, leadership and language skills that position them for advanced education and professional opportunities in today's global job market. Ninety percent of volunteer positions require a bachelor's degree. Volunteers receive paid living expenses and full health and dental coverage while overseas, and upon completing their 27-month service they are eligible for graduate school programs and federal hiring benefits.
Graduating college students are encouraged to apply by March 1 for remaining assignment openings for 2014 and the chance to be considered for programs in early 2015.
U-M offers both Peace Corps Master's International and Paul D. Coverdell Fellows graduate programs. The Coverdell Fellows Program offers Peace Corps volunteers who have completed their service the opportunity to earn an advanced degree from U-M in Natural Resources and Environment, Landscape Architecture or Public Policy, with financial assistance and the chance to use their knowledge and skills in community internships as part of the program's requirements. The university also offers Peace Corps Master's International graduate programs—allowing students to combine Peace Corps service with graduate studies for credit—in natural resources and environment, education studies, social work and nursing.
Anyone interested in learning more can drop by the Peace Corps office at the International Center, 603 E. Madison St. (Mondays 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesdays 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Wednesdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Thursdays 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2:30-5 p.m., and Fridays 11 a.m.-3 p.m.), visit www.facebook.com/UMPeaceCorps or attend a public Peace Corps event this semester:
Application Workshop: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11 at the International Center, Room 9
Information Session: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17, at the International Center, Room 9
Information Session: 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 11 at the International Center, Room 9
Information Session. Noon Friday, April 11 at the School of Social Work building, Room B780, 1080 S. University Ave.
Of the 271 Michigan residents currently serving in the Peace Corps, 29 are from Ann Arbor, a top metro area for producing volunteers, per capita. Overall, 6,988 Michigan residents have served since the agency was created in 1961.
Nationally, the University of Wisconsin outpaced large universities with more than 15,000 undergraduates, with 90 alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers. For the entire top 25 rankings for each school size category, see http://1.usa.gov/1blVpkT (PDF).
As the pre-eminent international service organization of the United States, the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Peace Corps volunteers work at the grassroots level with local governments, schools, communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. When they return home, volunteers bring their knowledge and experiences—and a global outlook—back to the U.S., enriching the lives of those around them. President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to foster a better understanding among Americans and people of other countries. Since then, more than 215,000 Americans of all ages have served in 139 countries worldwide. To learn more, visit www.peacecorps.gov.