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ISSUE 115 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 4/26/2002

Peace Corps abundant at St. Olaf

By Sarah Ferguson
Staff Writer

Friday, April 26, 2002

St. Olaf College graduates the third highest number of Peace Corps volunteers out of all small universities and colleges in the United States, according to a recent report. Students, staff, and faculty members seem pleased with this statistic, which has further established St. Olaf as a globally minded school.

The small colleges with which St. Olaf competed with were classified as those who enroll 5,000 undergraduates or less. Tied with John Hopkins University in Maryland, St. Olaf is surpassed only by Tufts University in Massachusetts, Colby College in Maine, and Middlebury College in Vermont (the last two are tied for second).

The ranking shows that St. Olaf students are drawn to the idea of international service. Conversely, the idea of international service attracts students to St. Olaf. "The high number of graduates [who] go into the Peace Corps was one of the things that made this school stand out for me," said Matthew Toburen ‘04. Toburen, a social work major, is seriously considering the option of becoming a volunteer after graduation.

Daniel Alexander ‘02 is one of St. Olaf’s newest volunteers. He plans to serve as an English teacher at primary and secondary schools in Romania after he earns his degree. Commenting on the college’s global perspective, Alexander said, "One of the best experiences a person can have is to go to another culture and see a different way of life." The six months that he spent studying in France may have kindled his already-existing interest in international affairs.

The number of alumni who decide to volunteer overseas has a strong connection with St. Olaf’s global perspective, said Patrick Quade, director of International and Off-Campus Studies. "Students come to St. Olaf with a strong desire to continue to engage in volunteer activities. It's only natural that they would have this desire strengthened when they immerse themselves in other cultures." Programs like Global Semester provide students with a chance to discuss issues with which the Peace Corps is concerned. Global Semester travelers even speak with agencies from the United Nations. Other study abroad programs also give students a chance to look at the world from a different point of view.

"As the Off-Campus Studies Office works to expand the number of study-service programs around the world, the opportunities to discover the challenges and rewards implicit in volunteer activities will surely increase," Quade said. St. Olaf students who have become Peace Corps volunteers are found serving all over the globe.

The Peace Corps, which was approved by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, is a government organization that recruits volunteers to serve in developing countries. According to the group’s official website, most volunteers work in education, business, agriculture, health, and community development.

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