A way for a journalist to stand out AND some local-global story ideas

For a college paper or radio station looking for a different kind of story, the Peace Corps, just offered up some great information that can be turned into some interesting stories.

The Corps, one of the best government institutions, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. The whole purpose of the Corps is for America’s best and brightest to donate their time and knowledge to help people in other countries.

Since its inception by executive order in 1961, more than 200,000 young people have donated two years of their lives to development projects in more than 130 countries.

During my limited teaching time at George Mason, I encouraged my students to seriously consider volunteering for the Peace Corps. My reasons were pretty simple:

  1. In general, the job market sucks, volunteering for the Peace Corps gives you at least two more years to gain experience and hope for a better economy.
  2. Specifically, the job market for journalists sucks. Volunteering for the Peace Corps provides you with overseas’ experience and skills other journalists don’t have. That will make your job application stand out from all the others.
  3. It is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have and you will learn things about the world and yourself you will never learn by staying in the States.
  4. The world is interconnected. The more you know about the rest of the world the better you will be as a journalist and as a citizen of the world. The Peace Corps gives you experiences and knowledge of the rest of the world that no class or tourism trip can.

I should add that I am NOT a Peace Corps alum but I have met many of the volunteers in the Dominican Republic and Honduras. I have never seen such enthusiastic and idealistic young people any where else.

I noticed that George Mason is not on the list of top schools sending graduates to the Peace Corps. (Maybe that will change with time.) But for now, perhaps the Mason student media folks can look around campus to see if any seniors have signed up to join the Corps after graduation. (Then find out why and where they hope to go.)

Maybe a search could be started to see what professors or administrators have Peace Corps experience. Then find out why they joined the Corps and how their time in service helped/hindered their career choices.

Does the school have a relationship with the Peace Corps so that some course work counts toward the Peace Corps training programs? If not, why not? (Contact the Peace Corps for more information about this. More schools are doing this every year.)

Here is something to get you started with your stories:

Just this past week the Peace Corps released a list of the top colleges whose graduates have joined the Peace Corps.

For campus and local community reporters, this is a gold mine of information about links between the college and the rest of the world.

Following are the top five colleges and universities in each undergraduate category, as well as the top graduate schools and a historical ranking. The numbers in parentheses represent the number of alumni currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers.


More than 15,000 undergraduates

  • University of Colorado Boulder (112)
  • University of Washington (110)
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison (107)
  • University of Florida (101)
  • University of Michigan (97)


Between 5,001 and 15,000 undergraduates

  • The George Washington University (78)
  • Western Washington University (73)
  • American University (63)
  • Cornell University (58)
  • University of Vermont (42)


Less than 5,000 undergraduates

  • University of Mary Washington (29)
  • Gonzaga University (26)
  • Oberlin College (24)
  • St. Olaf College (24)
  • University of Puget Sound (22)
  • The Johns Hopkins University (22)
  • Lewis & Clark College (22)


Number of graduate alumni volunteers

  • University of Florida (30)
  • University of Washington (24)
  • University of Denver (16)
  • American University (16)
  • Tulane University (16)


Number of alumni volunteers

  • University of California, Berkeley (3,497)
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison (3,000)
  • University of Washington (2,738)
  • University of Michigan (2,458)
  • University of Colorado Boulder (2,317)

It would be nice if the University of Michigan would step up the volunteer numbers a bit. After all, the whole idea for the Peace Corps was floated by then Senator John F. Kennedy during a presidential campaign speech in October 1960.

Click here for the complete list of schools and their rankings within the Peace Corps.

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