Robyn Schelenz, UC Newsroom
Since its inception in 1961, the Peace Corps has been a transformative experience for the volunteers and host countries involved — and UC has been a major part of that story, according to new data released by the Peace Corps.
Four UC campuses are among the top 25 schools to have produced volunteers over the Peace Corps’ 62-year history, with UC Berkeley having sent more volunteers to the corps than any other college or university in the country through the organization’s duration.
The four UC campuses have collectively sent 9,149 volunteers to the Peace Corps, making UC the clear leader in producing Peace Corps volunteers. No other university system has multiple campuses in the top 25. More than 10,000 alumni from all UC campuses have served.
The UC system has been closely involved with the Peace Corps since the organization’s inception. UCLA served as one of its first training sites in 1961. UC Berkeley has held the top spot as an all-time producer of volunteers for years, with famous alumni like Robert Haas among its earliest volunteers. Students remain excited to answer the call to serve.
“I was motivated to join the Peace Corps in order to help other communities while seeing the world,” said Maximiliano Torres, a Class of 2022 graduate of UC Santa Barbara who earned a bachelor’s degree in linguistics. Torres has a unique distinction — he was dispatched to serve in Costa Rica’s education sector as part of the first post-pandemic wave of Peace Corps volunteers. The organization suspended its operations due to the pandemic, evacuating nearly 7,000 volunteers from more than 60 countries in March of 2020.
“I hope to gain more experience in teaching and a better perspective in global affairs,” Torres said. “I’m excited to adapt to a different environment and create new bonds.”
The organization’s mission of world peace and friendship has never been more relevant. Currently, the Peace Corps has over 1,400 volunteers serving in 53 countries at the invitation of host country governments, and the agency is committed to recruiting and deploying more than 5,000 volunteers over the next year.
“Demand for Peace Corps volunteers is high given setbacks in development progress following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Peace Corps director Carol Spahn. “Peace Corps service is the beginning of a lifetime of global connection and purpose for those bold enough to accept the invitation.”
Since the Peace Corps’ founding, more than 240,000 volunteers have answered the call to serve in 143 countries worldwide. At the invitation of governments around the world, Peace Corps volunteers work alongside community members on locally-prioritized projects in the areas of education, health, environment, agriculture, community economic development and youth development. Through service, members of the Peace Corps network develop transferable skills and hone intercultural competencies that position them to be the next generation of global leaders. Volunteers stay in their communities for at least two years and are encouraged to live alongside the community they serve, learning the language and sharing in communal life.
The Peace Corps is a highly selective program, accepting less than a quarter of applicants. One of the keys to UC’s success in helping students achieve their dream of serving in the corps is Peace Corps Prep, a partnership program dedicated to preparing undergraduates for service abroad. Each UC undergraduate campus offers the program, which collaborates with the Peace Corps to provide enrolled students the opportunity to build four key competencies: sector specific skills, foreign language proficiency, intercultural competence, and professional leadership. Students who complete the program earn a certificate and a competitive edge when applying for Peace Corps service.
The state of California in 2020 ranked No. 1 among all states and territories with the highest all-time number of Peace Corps volunteers; over 31,891 Californians have served since 1961.
Maximiliano Torres was originally quoted in a UC Santa Barbara piece about the rankings by Shelly Leachman. Read more about UC Santa Barbara’s commitment to the Peace Corps in the full piece here.