EDITOR: Much of the information in this news release comes from the Peace Corps. See the agency's official news release at www.peacecorps.gov. To see additional material provided by the Peace Corps, contact Martha Filipic at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State University surged four places on the Peace Corps’ annual list of the top volunteer-producing schools, placing for the first time among the top 10 large universities, the international organization said yesterday (2/5).
With 80 Ohio State graduates currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers, an increase of nine volunteers over last year, the university now ranks No. 9 and "remains a solid source of alumni committed to making a difference at home and abroad," the Peace Corps said.
Since the agency was created in 1961, some 1,666 Ohio State alums have served overseas, making the university the No. 10 all-time producer of Peace Corps volunteers, the agency said.
Mark Erbaugh, director of Ohio State's International Programs in Agriculture, was one of those volunteers. Housed in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, the agricultural international programs office has overseen the university's Peace Corps program since 1974.
"Living and working outside of your own country is always a formative experience," Erbaugh said. "You learn more about yourself. You gain self-confidence by dealing in a different environment and in a different language, all while discovering another part of the world."
Erbaugh earned a degree in natural resources at the University of Michigan before serving in the Peace Corps in Swaziland from 1976-1980. In 1981, he became Ohio State's Peace Corps recruiter and later earned his master's and doctoral degrees in rural sociology from Ohio State.
Erbaugh has hired every Peace Corps recruiter at Ohio State since he left that post.
"The reason the program is based in our college is that the Peace Corps can use all of the 'aggies' (agricultural majors) and natural resource majors it can get," Erbaugh said.
But not all of Ohio State's Peace Corps volunteers are students of the agricultural college.
Kelsey Griffiths of Solon, Ohio, graduated from Ohio State in June 2011 with a degree in English and French. As an education volunteer in South Africa, she is working to establish a library at a primary school in a village there, in addition to coordinating a shipment of 22,000 books to be distributed among libraries throughout the country.
“The culture at Ohio State was excellent preparation for the independent nature of service abroad,” Griffiths said. “I was encouraged to push myself, to take on leadership positions, and to do independent research.
“There was also enormous emphasis on service at OSU, and I’m sure the community service hours I gained there helped strengthen my Peace Corps application.”
Five other Ohio schools made the list this year. Miami University-Oxford ranks No. 11 among medium schools with 28 alumni volunteers; among smaller-population schools, Oberlin College ranks fourth with 20 alumni volunteers, Denison University is at No. 7 with 17 volunteers, Kenyon College has 16 volunteers and ranks No. 8, and Case Western Reserve University has the No. 18 spot with 15 volunteers.
Graduating college students are encouraged to apply to the Peace Corps by Feb. 28 for the remaining assignment openings for 2013 and the chance to be considered for programs in early 2014, the organization said.
The Peace Corps is looking for people in a wide variety of skill areas, Erbaugh said, such as agriculture, the environment, education, health and business.
The organization, working with the International Programs in Agriculture Office at Ohio State, hosts an on-campus recruiter to offer information on the application process and share his personal experience as a volunteer. Jack Campbell, who served two terms in the Peace Corps in Fiji and Botswana, can be reached at 614-292-3008 and email@example.com.
Anyone interested in learning more can join the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/OSUPeaceCorps, attend an event (see events at http://cfaes.osu.edu/international/peace-corps), drop by to visit Campbell in 113 Agricultural Administration Building during office hours (Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.), or attend the Peace Corps Week Open House at the Ohio Union on Feb. 25, noon to 4 p.m. in the Hays Cape Room on the third floor.
With 291 state residents currently serving in the Peace Corps, Ohio is among the top-producing states for volunteers. Overall, 6,875 Ohio residents have served.