MARQUETTE, Mich.— Northern Michigan University climbed three spots in the Peace Corps’ annual list of the top 25 volunteer-producing midsized colleges and universities nationwide. NMU ranks 19th, with 14 alumni currently serving overseas as Peace Corps volunteers.
Rachel Harris, director of the NMU Center for Student Enrichment, said she is not surprised that students gravitate toward Peace Corps duty upon their graduation.
“It makes sense because NMU is an institution that values and encourages student engagement in and out of the classroom,” Harris said. “We are developing community-centered leaders through nationally recognized student development programs like Superior Edge and the Student Leader Fellowship Program. Many students’ experiences prepare them to contribute in a global society. They embrace opportunities to learn, grow and serve.”
Kevin Timlin, director of the NMU International Programs Office and former Peace Corps volunteer (Kyrgyz Republic, 1997-1999), agreed: “This is evidence that NMU faculty and staff are committed to instilling a true sense of service and global citizenship in our students, and that we’re a community who values diversity and seeks to have a greater understanding of the people and cultures around the world. As a returned Peace Corps Volunteer myself, these were the characteristics I saw in NMU that attracted me here. It makes me extremely proud to serve so many great Wildcat students who are called to Peace Corps service.”
Since the agency was created in 1961, 200 NMU alumni have made a difference as Peace Corps volunteers. NMU alumna Kaitlin McDonald of Allenton, Mich., served as an agroforestry Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal from 2012-14. She made a difference improving agroforestry technologies for rural farmers and helping to create a women’s community garden.
McDonald earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies from NMU. She was inspired to serve when an economics professor invited two former Peace Corps volunteers to speak in her class.
“The NMU international studies program fueled my innate curiosity to see how the different peoples of the world live,” said McDonald. “Aided by the tools learned through the program, I was able to go and serve in the Peace Corps.”
According to an agency press release, this year’s rankings follow reforms to the Peace Corps’ application and selection process that resulted in the highest number of applications in 22 years. Through a one-hour online application, applicants can now choose the countries and programs they find most appealing. Graduating college students are encouraged to browse open programs and apply by April 1 for assignments departing fall 2015.
Peace Corps recruiter Brett Heimann, a returned volunteer who served in Togo, advises northern Michigan candidates and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will have an information table at the Upper Great Lakes Career Fair at 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 25, in the Great Lakes Rooms of the University Center. Heimann will also present a general information session at 6 p.m. in Hedgecock 2303.
“The Peace Corps provides an indispensable opportunity for young people out of college to put their unique skills to work making a difference for communities around the world,” Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said in the release. “Volunteers make lasting change by living and working at the grassroots level in their communities of service and using their talents to tackle some of the most critical challenges in international development.”
Nationally, the University of Washington in Seattle pulled in the highest number of volunteers with 72 graduates currently serving in the Peace Corps. Three other Michigan schools earned recognition. The entire top 25 rankings for each school-size category can be viewed here.