UNC Wilmington Ranked Among Top Producers of Peace Corps Volunteers; Reflects University's Focus on Service
University of North Carolina Wilmington graduate Amber Wilson ’08 believes in public service, and she puts that belief into practice. While a student, she volunteered to work with relief efforts in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, prepared meals for the homeless in North Carolina and volunteered with the Salvation Army.
“More and more people tell you to do what makes you happy. The thing that makes me happy is helping people,” Wilson said.
On March 4, Wilson will continue to help people as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic, joining the 20 other UNCW alumni who are currently serving in the Peace Corps across the world. Because of the service of Wilson and alumni like her, the Peace Corps has named UNC Wilmington as one of the top schools in the nation for producing Peace Corps volunteers.
UNCW is ranked 25th in the nation among medium-sized schools for producing undergraduate volunteers. Since the Peace Corps was founded in 1961, 123 UNCW alumni have volunteered. UNCW is one of only three North Carolina schools on the Peace Corps list, which also includes the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Elon University, and is the only N.C. school represented on the list of medium-sized institutions.
The rankings do not surprise Donna Chappa-Crowe, director of the UNCW Center for Leadership Education and Service (CLES), which links students with volunteer and service learning opportunities. More than 18 percent of the student population volunteers through the center, and many others serve through churches, community organizations and other agencies.
The university has a long relationship with the Peace Corps, Chappa-Crowe said. Recruiters visit the campus twice a year, and she regularly assists students in applying for the organization.
“Every year, we have at least one, maybe two, who are going through the process,” she said.
The Peace Corps rankings reflect the number of volunteers from more than 3,000 American universities. The Peace Corps calculates the list each year based on data from the previous fiscal year, ranking schools with fewer than 5,000 undergraduates as small, more than 5,000 but fewer than 15,000 as medium, and more than 15,000 as large.
Chappa-Crowe, who herself volunteered in Thailand for the Peace Corps from 1988 to 1991, said that the experience gives graduates a chance to develop work skills, language abilities and maturity. Many use the Peace Corps as a springboard for careers in public service and international business organizations.
For Jeff Rose ’00, ‘06M, the Peace Corps led to his current career as executive director of the Wilmington-based international assistance agency, The Full Belly Project. Founded by members of the Coastal Carolina Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, The Full Belly Project has received international attention for its work in providing rural African farmers with technology to increase their harvests and income.
“The Peace Corps changed my outlook on the world and definitely set the stage for my career,” said Rose.
Wilmington has a very active Peace Corps community, according to Rose. Many of the staff and volunteers at Full Belly have Peace Corps experience, and he said that many of the young volunteers express an interest in applying after they graduate.
“They know that it is something they want to do in the future,” said Rose.
Worldwide, the Peace Corps has 7,671 volunteers serving in 76 countries. Volunteers do not have to have a college degree, but they must have relevant experience in education, health care, business, information technology, environment or agriculture. In 2009, more than 15,000 applied to the Peace Corps, an 18 percent increase over 2008. The Peace Corps reports that this is the largest number of applications since the agency began electronically recording applications in 1998.