Philanthropy-Focused Students Make Penn State A Top Producer Of Peace Corps Volunteers

For the past nine years, Penn State has ranked among the top 25 large school producers of Peace Corps volunteers. It was ranked No. 13 last year, and the year before that, Penn State came in at No. 8.

Since 1961, more than 1,220 alumni have served abroad for the Corps, and that number only keeps growing. These figures go to show that the Peace Corps and Penn State clearly have a longstanding relationship dedicated to providing service opportunities to students abroad.

But why is this the case? Well, there are a number of factors — including school size, campus culture, and incentive program prevalence — that all play a part in Penn State’s ability to recruit so many volunteers.

The Corps provides service opportunities for those who want to immerse themselves in the languages, cultures, and traditions of communities abroad. Volunteers serve as a resource to help marginalized communities tackle challenges and issues at a grassroots level.

In 2016, the Coverdell Fellowship partnered with the School of International Affairs, Smeal College of Business, and the College of Agriculture to provide volunteers with an interdisciplinary Peace Corps fellowship program. The program provides volunteers with access to financial aid in each of the three program areas to further their education after their time in the Corps.

Peace Corps Campus Recruiter Kayla King credits Penn State’s Coverdell Fellowship as a major factor in Penn State’s high Peace Corps participation rates.

“It has provided the opportunity to returned Peace Corps volunteers who may not have had the chance to engage in a master’s program and ultimately supports them in their future trajectories following graduation,” King said. “Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are very highly valued for their work ethic, experience in the field and knowledge of foreign cultures, especially when it comes to further schooling, matriculating into the workforce or seeking a career in international development.”

However, incentive programs, like the Coverdell Fellowship, aren’t the only reasons why so many Penn State students go into the Peace Corps.

“It has everything to do with the quality of student that Penn State admits and the types of qualities those students have,” On-Campus Interviewing Assistant Emily Aubertine said. “Penn State has a deep philanthropic student base and many clubs/events that attest to philanthropy, that align well with Peace Corps values.”

The majority of Penn State’s Peace Corps volunteers are undergraduate students, many of whom participate in philanthropic organizations such as THON, which remains the largest student-run philanthropy event in the world.

Apart from the Coverdell Program, a new Peace Corps Prep Program will roll out across Main Campus in the fall of 2020. The program will engage students so as to better identify their sector of service, find courses that align with that sector, and provide the 50 hours of domestic community service needed to apply.

Aubertine, however, believes that Penn State doesn’t really need “incentive” programs to engage students — the university just naturally attracts individuals who enjoy community service and want to help others.

“Kayla [King’s] job is to facilitate that process by guiding them along the path to applications and off to service,” Aubertine said. “But the students who dedicate their lives to Peace Corps already have those qualities without incentives.”

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About the Author

Emma Dieter

Emma is a senior from the ever-popular "right-outside" Philly area studying labor employment relations and PR. She's also the Student Life editor for Onward State. She has been a Penn Stater from cradle and will continue to bleed blue and white, 'til grave. She loves trashy romance novels, watching Netflix, and crying over cute videos of dogs. If you ever want to talk more with her about how great she is, or simply have other inquiries, feel free to email her at [email protected]

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