UCLA has moved up 10 spots in the annual "Peace Corps Top Colleges and Universities" rankings, which were released today. With 92 alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps — up from 58 last year — the campus now ranks sixth among large universities (those with more than 15,000 undergraduates) in the number of volunteers.
Since the inception of the Peace Corps in 1961, 1,801 UCLA alumni have volunteered, putting the campus in the eighth spot overall among more than 3,000 U.S. universities.
The announcement of UCLA's jump in the rankings comes as UCLA is preparing a major commemoration for the Peace Corps' 50th anniversary, which will be observed March 2–5, 2011, with a series of events on the Westwood campus.
"I'm delighted that UCLA is among the leading contributors of Peace Corps volunteers," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. "Service is one of UCLA's core values as a public university, and our students and alumni share a deep sense of commitment to the needs of others, both in California and around the world. We are proud of our longstanding association with the Peace Corps and look forward to our 50th anniversary commemoration in early March."
UCLA played a vital role in volunteer-training efforts following the creation of the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by order of President John F. Kennedy. By the fall of that year, the campus was fully involved in training volunteers, first for service in Africa, and later for Latin America. Peace Corps volunteers are now trained in their host countries.
"For the last 50 years, colleges and universities across the country have been an integral part of the Peace Corps family," said Peace Corps director Aaron S. Williams. "The Westwood campus was one of the first training sites in 1961 and continues to be a key contributor of Peace Corps volunteers, ranking eighth among all universities in the nation.
"In 1961, President Kennedy created the Peace Corps in response to the passion of university students, and today we continue to be inspired by the enthusiasm, dedication and creativity of the thousands of Americans now serving overseas," he said. "Colleges instill a commitment to public service among their students and share our belief that together we can work to make the world a better place."
The Peace Corps "Top Colleges" report ranks colleges and universities in categories according to the size of their student bodies: small (less than 5,000 undergraduates), medium (5,000–15,000) and large (more than 15,000).
Among large colleges and universities, the University of Colorado at Boulder ranked first this year, with 117 undergraduate alumni currently serving overseas. Previously, the University of Washington had held the top spot for four consecutive years. UC Berkeley maintains the No. 1 all-time historical ranking, with 3,457 alumni who have volunteered for the Peace Corps.
UCLA currently has alumni serving in 46 of the 77 countries in which the Peace Corps operates, from Albania to Zambia. The majority of Bruin volunteers work in the areas of health, education and business development.
Stuart Sia, who graduated from UCLA in 2008 and played tuba in the UCLA marching band, began his Peace Corps training in Botswana in April 2009 and now serves in that country as a life-skills technical adviser, "implementing educational programs to elicit, encourage and normalize healthy behaviors." He said he "enjoys living a life of service."
Ester Dela, 28, holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from UCLA and is preparing to depart in April for Romania, where she will serve as an education volunteer in live with a host family for her first three months.
"The spirit of the Peace Corps really appealed to me," she said. "Like my past experience teaching in the inner city, I am looking for an opportunity for challenging and rewarding work that is connected with social justice issues."
California has always been a top producer of Peace Corps volunteers; more volunteers have come from California than from any other state. With 1,134 Californians currently serving —and more than 27,000 since 1961 — California has produced more than twice as many volunteers as the next closest state, New York. This year, five UC campuses ranked among the top 22 large colleges and universities in the number of Peace Corps volunteers.
Peace Corps' 50th anniversary events at UCLA
Among the Peace Corps commemoration events at UCLA this March will be a panel discussion on Wednesday, March 2, featuring Peace Corps director Aaron S. Williams, as well as other notable past Peace Corps volunteers, including several UCLA alumni: MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews; Vanity Fair writer Maureen Orth; Frank Mankiewicz, former regional Peace Corps director for Latin America and former press secretary for U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy; Haskell Sears Ward, an executive at Seacom, a fiber optics communication company; and Francoise Castro, a State Department program analyst.
The commemoration will also feature an exhibit, a reception, a film, a volunteer project and a festival in Bruin Plaza. For more information about UCLA's Peace Corps commemoration events, visit http://ucla.in/i4huzo.
Peace Corps director Aaron S. Williams will also deliver the keynote address in June at the 2011 UCLA College of Letters and Science commencement ceremony.
To view the full Peace Corps "Top Colleges" rankings, visit http://bit.ly/gCthty.
The Peace Corps: President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 77 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.
UCLA is California's largest university, with an enrollment of more than 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's 11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer 328 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and athletic programs. Six alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.