June 8, 2023

Peace Corps Ranks UMW First in Nation Among Small Colleges

The Peace Corps has ranked the University of Mary Washington No. 1 in the nation among small universities for alumni now serving as Peace Corps volunteers.

Rising to the top of the prestigious annual list for the first time in its history, UMW has 32 undergraduate alumni currently serving around the world, the Peace Corps announced February 1. In 2010, the university placed No. 2 among small schools, or institutions with less than 5,000 undergraduates, and in 2009, UMW ranked sixth among small universities.

“I am thrilled that our emphasis on service as part of the Mary Washington learning experience has resulted in graduates eager and well-prepared to give to the global community,” said UMW President Rick Hurley. “It’s gratifying that our alumni are nationally recognized as civically engaged and service oriented.”

UMW alumnus Chad Chadbourn '06 (far left) served with the Peace Corps in Costa Rica.

Kira Lanewala, a senior applying to serve in the Peace Corps following graduation, said news of the university’s top ranking makes her feel proud. “Mary Washington is the type of place that fosters the personal growth that encourages people to volunteer worldwide,” Lanewala said.

UMW has been named to the Peace Corps list of 25 top producing small schools for the eighth consecutive year. In all, 215 Mary Washington alumni have served the 27-month commitment around the world since the Peace Corps’ inception in 1961, said Stephen Chapman, a Peace Corps spokesman.

St. Olaf College ranked second among small schools, with 24 alumni serving, and Lewis & Clark College, Gonzaga University and University of Portland each had 23 volunteers. In the category of large universities, with more than 15,000 undergraduates, the University of Colorado at Boulder ranked highest with 117 volunteers. The George Washington University finished first among medium schools with 72 volunteers currently serving in the Peace Corps.

The Peace Corps ranks its top volunteer-producing schools annually according to the size of the student body. The rankings are calculated based on fiscal year 2010 data as of September 30, 2010, as self-reported by Peace Corps volunteers.

The University of California-Berkeley maintains the No. 1 all-time rank, with a cumulative 3,457 total volunteer alumni since the Peace Corps was established by President Kennedy in 1961.

Lanewala, a Spanish major who hails from Flemington, N.J., wants to volunteer overseas in order to continue the service she has enjoyed performing at Mary Washington. She has volunteered extensively through the student group COAR (Community Outreach and Resources) as environmental awareness and action co-chair, and she has traveled to Honduras as a member of Students Helping Honduras.

“Peace Corps reflects who we are as Americans, and before we can help the greater community, we need to grow as individuals, and Mary Washington helps people do that,” said Lanewala, who has begun the lengthy process of applying to serve in the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams congratulated Mary Washington officials in a letter, saying “These volunteers are applying the skills and knowledge they acquired during their time at the University of Mary Washington to help improve the lives of people across the globe. They are making important contributions to grass-roots projects in agriculture, education, the environment, health and HIV/AIDS education and prevention, small business development, and youth development.”

Find the complete list of top producing small, medium and large universities here.

Currently, there are 8,655 Peace Corps volunteers—a 40-year high in the number serving—in 77 host countries around the world. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating its 50th anniversary. Since its founding, more than 200,000 volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the 139 countries where volunteers have served. Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age.

News release prepared by Christine Neuberger

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.