News

Willamette Tenth in Nation for Peace Corps Volunteers

Willamette University ranks No. 10 in the nation this year on the Peace Corps' list of small undergraduate schools producing Peace Corps volunteers.

With 18 alumni serving as volunteers, Willamette is the only Oregon school and one of three Pacific Northwest universities on the top ten list. The survey includes schools with fewer than 5,000 undergraduates.

"Willamette's support has been instrumental to the success of the Peace Corps, and we look forward to continuing a successful collaboration in the decades to come," said Ron Tschetter, Peace Corps director.

Throughout the last 47 years, 281 Willamette alumni have joined the Peace Corps ranks.

"Our motto, 'Not unto ourselves alone are we born,' captures the essence of Willamette University," says Willamette President M. Lee Pelton. "It speaks to our commitment to humanitarian outreach and to the tradition of compassionate service that is typical of our alumni. Willamette's exemplary citizenship values have defined the culture of this campus for more than 167 years."

Peace Corps volunteer and Willamette graduate Audrey Squires said, "Sometimes when I'm walking down the muddy streets of Chahal, I step out of myself for a moment and envision me standing on a globe in this random little town in rural Guatemala, then spin the globe to Oregon and am baffled as to how I managed to come to this place of all places in the world.

"However it happened, it doesn't really matter, I'm just glad it did," said Squires, who is putting her Spanish and environmental science degree to work as an ecotourism facilitator. "I am learning so much about myself and the world through being here."

Margaret Hoffman, a 2007 Willamette alumna, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in a coffee-farming village in the northern mountains of Nicaragua. "I loved really being connected with people and connected to the land," she said.

She lived in a mud adobe house that lacked electricity and running water, and worked with pregnant women and mothers discussing health issues, from basic nutrition and hygiene to more sensitive matters such as self-esteem and reproductive health. "I've been so blessed in my life," said Hoffman, now a health care worker in Alaska. "These blessings have to be used to give back."

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy called upon America's youth to serve their country by volunteering to live and work in developing countries to promote world peace and friendship. Since that time Peace Corps volunteers have served in 139 host countries to work on issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology and environmental preservation. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. Although it is not a requirement for service, the majority of volunteers have been college graduates. Learn more at www.peacecorps.gov.

02-03-2009