UW among top 3 universities in Peace Corps volunteers

Students gather around a Peace Corps recruitment table at the University of Washington, circa 1963. Photo by James O. Sneddon, courtesy of UW Libraries News and Information Services Collection.


At the height of Cold War tensions, President John F. Kennedy noticed that the Soviet Union was sending hundreds of scientists, teachers and health-care workers abroad in the name of goodwill. That inspired him to ask future doctors and teachers amid a crowd of 10,000 students at the University of Michigan whether they’d be willing to use their skills in Ghana, to travel the world in service of the greater good.

Volunteer Jean Fink, ’70, weighs a child in Ivory Coast. In the early 1970s, when she was stationed there, the Peace Corps focused on community development and health education.

One year later, in 1961, Kennedy signed an executive order creating the Peace Corps, a U.S. government program that trains and deploys volunteers to provide international development assistance. The goal (aside from world peace) was to compete with the Soviet Union by promoting a better understanding of America while giving Americans a better understanding of the world. That opportunity took off at the UW, which, since 2001, has consistently ranked in the top three volunteer-producing universities in the nation.

“Being situated in the Pacific Northwest, UW students tend to be very keyed into current events and issues,” explains Amanda Li, the UW Peace Corps campus recruiter. Since 1961, the UW has sent 3,132 changemakers all over the world. After a pause in volunteerism during the pandemic, 24 recent UW graduates currently serve in 16 countries worldwide.

Peace Corps by the numbers

  • 3,132 volunteers from the UW have served in the Peace Corps
  • 16 countries are hosting UW alumni volunteers right now
  • 240,000 Americans have served
  • 143 countries have been served
  • 27 months equals length of service
  • 1,000 volunteers worldwide are dedicated to climate change projects
  • $0 salary provided to volunteers, who receive a stipend for room and board