Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Northwestern’s high Peace Corps output due to civic spirit, career goals

Northwestern’s large and consistent output of Peace Corps volunteers stems from its students’ humanitarian aspirations and career goals, a Peace Corps recruiter said last week.

“The students that I have worked with at Northwestern have always been really motivated,” said Betsy Blum, regional recruiter for the Peace Corps’ Chicago office, in an interview. “They have a clear idea of how Peace Corps is going to play into their long-term career goals, which I think is something that is really useful.”

The University boasts 912 past and present alumni volunteers.

Blum, who volunteered in Guinea from 2004 to 2006, leads one or two information sessions on campus each quarter to recruit potential volunteers, she said. The following nine- to 12-month application process focuses on candidates’ skill sets, motivations and commitments. NU students have had no problem differentiating themselves from other candidates, she said.

“All of the Northwestern students I’ve worked with have come very prepared,” Blum said. “They’ve really done their homework on what the Peace Corps is and what we’re looking for.”

In 2010, NU placed 15th among mid-sized American universities in the number of Peace Corps volunteers. It was the 11th straight year NU earned a spot in the top 25 in the list, which is for colleges with 5,000 – 15,000 students. Thirty-two undergraduate alumni volunteered in 2010, according to the organization’s annual college and university rankings. The number represents NU’s highest total since 2007.

The Peace Corps was founded in March 1961 to provide technical, economic and social assistance to the developing world. During the last 50 years – the organization’s fiftieth birthday is on March 1 – more than 200,000 volunteers have served in 139 host countries, according to its website. Volunteers – nearly always college graduates – go abroad for 27-month tours of duty. More than 8,500 volunteers currently serve around the world, working on everything from establishing information and communications infrastructures to improving health services, according to the organization’s website.

While public service such as the Peace Corps isn’t integral for every college graduate, NU should make such opportunities as accessible as possible, Weinberg senior John Froberg said.

“People who want to be public-service oriented should have the opportunities to follow up their interests,” Froberg said. “To me, it seems like (NU) is doing a good job and that there is demand in the student body for it.”

Monica Yang, a Weinberg sophomore who volunteers in Chicago with Peer Health Exchange, said NU alumni’s continued involvement with the Peace Corps speaks volumes about the student body.

“Our university in generally is really proactive,” Yang said. “When we’re not studying, we’re doing a lot of volunteer work. And there are a lot of opportunities for it.”

Young alumni giving up more than two years of their fledgling careers to public service is a sacrifice, Yang said.

And while such a decision may set alumni back in NU’s professionally competitive community, it’s not without good reason.

“Giving back is really important,” Yang said. “Going to school, most of us just concentrate on our courses and things like that. But giving back to humanity, that’s something some people feel they have a responsibility to do.”

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Northwestern’s high Peace Corps output due to civic spirit, career goals