University contributes high number of volunteers to Peace Corps

Emily Sides

UT-Austin ranks No. 11 in Peace Corps volunteers in the large school category, with 77 alumni serving on five continents, according to a Peace Corps press release.

On the 50th anniversary of the global service program, UT ranks No. 1 in the Southwest, according to the UT recruitment office. More than 4,000 former volunteers live in Texas.

“When I got back [to the U.S. from Armenia], I was overwhelmed at all the choices at American grocery stores,” said Ben Callaway, UT Peace Corps recruiter. “I was used to going to a small shack and buying rice.”

More than 14,000 people apply each year for more than 7,000 positions in agriculture, business, information and communication technologies, education, environment, health and HIV/AIDS and youth and community development. Spanish and French are the most needed languages among applicants. Students who participate may have options to alleviate student loan debt by deferring payment or cancelling a percentage of the debt.

“Science and basic health knowledge is such an important topic, but it’s not taught very well,” said Jen Taylor, a UT alumna who is applying to the Peace Corps. “I feel like I’ve had a very blessed life, and I want to do something meaningful.”

UT government professor Bruce Buchanan said the Peace Corps is an enduring legacy from John Kennedy that shows the impact of American idealism.

“It’s putting American people to work on serious problems by people who are in significant need,” he said. “It’s great public relations for the U.S. and great experience for students.”