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Ben Peck will be volunteering with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.
MWC Ranks Seventh For Peace Corps
By Sarah Lucas [Assistant Features Editor] April 12, 2001
In a few months, senior business major Ben Peck will take a job as an economic advisor. He will educate youth on business practices, do income-generating projects for non-governmental organizations and do consulting for existing organizations. He won’t be making big bucks, thoughÑPeck will be volunteering with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.
“The Peace Corps will give me an opportunity to help a developing nation get up on it’s feet,” Peck said.
Mary Washington College has been ranked among the top 10 schools on the Peace Corps’ annual list of small colleges and universities with the highest number of alumni currently serving overseas, for the third year in a row.
This year, Mary Washington College ranked seventh, with 16 alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps. Last year, the college ranked fifth, with 19 volunteers.
A “small college” is classified as a school with fewer than 5,000 undergraduate students. Other schools that were ranked among the top small colleges and universities were Tufts University, Johns Hopkins University and Dartmouth College.
Mary Washington College is also one of the top small colleges among postgraduate Peace Corps volunteers in the mid-Atlantic region, which stretches from Delaware to North Carolina and includes West Virginia.
According to Paige Risser, a public affairs specialist with the Peace Corps, there are about 180 four-year schools in the region, and the college is consistently one of the top 20 producers of Peace Corps volunteers.
What is it about Mary Washington College that inspires so many people to volunteer, and why have so many Mary Washington College students made the cut? According to Rebecca Trimble, a Peace Corps recruiter for the mid-Atlantic region, the Peace Corps receives about 10,000 applications every year but only sends about 3,500 volunteers overseas.
Trimble said that volunteers for the Peace Corps must have an undergraduate degree with any major, strong community service, strong leadership skills and an ability to pick up a second language. The most important of these, she said, is a strong sense of service, which she finds is strong at small liberal arts colleges.
“Schools that have a strong focus on liberal arts and community service tend to have more interest than some of the larger schools,” Trimble said.
Trimble also recruits from the 14 other schools besides Mary Washington College in the mid-Atlantic region.
“For a small school, I think the level of interest [at Mary Washington College] is much higher [than the average],” Trimble said.
Peck said that his liberal arts education will be of great value when he goes overseas, especially since he was required to take language and global awareness classes. Risser said that people who go into the Peace Corps often have a broad liberal arts background, as well as a strong international focus.
“A lot of people who go into the Peace Corps after graduating from MWC have international [affairs] majors,” Risser said.
Other than providing students with a strong liberal arts background, the service opportunities available at Mary Washington College, such as COAR and the service learning floor, encourage students to volunteer and help them to get the community service experience needed to be considered for the Peace Corps.
Senior Jen Rice, student director of Community Outreach and Resources, said one in four Mary Washington College students volunteer through COAR some time during their college career. She said she thinks that volunteering in the community inspires people to volunteer at the international level.
“I think in general the students at MWC understand the concept of giving back to the community,” Rice said.
According to Rice, the student director of COAR from two years ago is now volunteering with the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan, formerly a part of the Soviet Union. Another former staff member is also volunteering in Uzbekistan and another in Cameroon, an African nation.
Mary Beth Leightley, a 1995 Mary Washington College graduate, was also involved in community service while she was a student at the college. She built homes for Habitat for Humanity and went on a spring break trip to help flood victims in St. Louis. She volunteered in Moldova, a former Soviet Republic, from 1996 to 1999, and taught English to fifth, sixth and seventh graders. Leightley, who played soccer at Mary Washington College, also started a girl’s soccer team in Moldova.
Senior Kate MacPhail, COAR’s groups coordinator, said that performing community service at Mary Washington College helps to prepare students for volunteering overseas. Volunteering for the Peace Corps can also be a great opportunity for students who aren’t sure what they want to do after they graduate, which can be common at a liberal arts school.
“Many people don’t know what they want to do when they graduate,” MacPhail said. “So Peace Corps lets them combine their not knowing what to do with their love of volunteering.”
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