Berkeley still all-time top producer of Peace Corps volunteers

UC Berkeley is still No. 1 when it comes to graduates who go into the Peace Corps, having sent 3,640 alums abroad since the program launched in 1961, according to 2017 college rankings released today.

Sarah Edwards in Cameroon

Berkeley graduate Sarah Edwards was a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon from 2013 to 2015.

Sarah Edwards, a Berkeley graduate with a degree in environmental sciences, spent two years in Misaje, in northwest Cameroon, as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2013 to 2015. She led beekeeping trainings, organized vegetable farmers’ groups and provided education to prevent HIV/AIDS, among other projects.

“A volunteer’s work depends entirely upon the community’s needs and interest,” says Edwards. “My community saw food security, clean water access and HIV/AIDS prevention as priorities, and I was able to assist to support those needs.”

Four UC campuses ranked in the top 25 colleges nationally among volunteer producers, sending a total of 147 alumni worldwide in 2016. Joining Berkeley on the list were UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis.

Peace Corps acting Director Sheila Crowley says volunteers return home with greater cultural competency, which they can apply to work in their fields. “Peace Corps service is an unparalleled leadership opportunity that enables college and university alumni to use the creative-thinking skills they developed in school to make an impact in communities around the world,” she says.

Sarah Edwards in Cameroon

“Some of my favorite memories are dancing with my women’s group on a Sunday afternoon just because someone felt like dancing,” says Sarah Edwards.

Edwards, who now works for a nonprofit that serves veterans in San Francisco Bay Area, says serving in the Peace Corps taught her that people are the same everywhere. “My friends and neighbors cared about taking care of their families and ensuring their children have better lives than they do,” she says. “The same things that people care about here.”

More than 11,000 UC alumni have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. In 2016, California ranked No. 1 among U.S. states, sending 916 Peace Corps volunteers abroad.

This year, the University of Wisconsin–Madison topped the list of volunteer producers nationally, with 87 alumni currently in the Peace Corps, followed by the University of Washington with 73 and the University of Minnesota with 70.

Learn more at https://www.peacecorps.gov/.