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Ohio State No. 4 volunteer-producing university in Peace Corps

Ohio State alumni flocked to the Peace Corps last year, according to a release that said OSU made the top 10 list of student Peace Corps Volunteers for the second consecutive year.

There are currently 83 OSU alumni serving in the Peace Corps, OSU was ranked fourth among universities with more than 15,000 undergraduate students, a five-spot increase from the previous year.

“We rank our top volunteer-producing (colleges) and universities nationwide according to the size of the student body,” said Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet.

The Peace Corps is a U.S. Government service organization that sets Americans up with work sites and projects in other countries. The minimum age to join is 18, and currently about 7,200 volunteers and trainees are in the program, with 65 host countries involved.

Since 1961, when the Peace Corps was created, 1,706 OSU members have served, Hessler-Radelet said.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison ranked first in the large colleges and universities category with 90 volunteer members this year.

“OSU is not that far behind, so it will be a great opportunity for OSU to really take the lead,” Hessler-Radelet said.

OSU Peace Corps campus recruiter Jack Campbell said the university’s current ranking is a big accomplishment.

“When I came to this position at OSU, for some 35 or 40 years, Peace Corps has been at this location, they’ve never been in the top 10. So when we made the top 10 a year ago I was very pleased to hear that,” Campbell said.

Hessler-Radelet said the Peace Corps provides volunteers with language, cultural and technical skills that can prove useful in future pursuits.

“I was a Peace Corps volunteer and it changed my life, and I think if you talk to any volunteer, they will tell you the same thing. It really is transformational,” Hessler-Radelet said.

Campbell said he joined the Peace Corps when he was in his 50s and was able to volunteer in countries such as Botswana and Fiji.

“I guarantee to (students) that it will be a life-changing experience,” Campbell said.

Because of its competitive process, Campbell said interested students are encouraged to apply the summer before their senior year of college.

OSU alumnus Paul Cook, who served as an educational volunteer in Madagascar, volunteered from July 2010 to October.

“I just really enjoyed that experience and I got to know the community really well. One year there was just not enough for me,” said Cook, who double majored in Portuguese and international studies.

Public affairs coordinator for the Peace Corps’ Midwest region Jessica Mayle said students from a variety of backgrounds have volunteered for the Peace Corps.

“Most positions require a bachelor degree, but if you have a bachelor’s degree in any subject, you can find a position that you are well-suited for,” Mayle said.

With about 80 percent of volunteers under the age of 30 and recent college graduates, Hessler-Radelet said the Peace Corps depends heavily on campuses in order to gain recruiting members.

“It is not only an opportunity to make a difference, it is also an opportunity to build your career,” Hessler-Radelet said.

Through joining, Cook said he was able to learn different skills while expanding his horizons.

“I think (one) of the big and important things you learn is how to live and thrive in a culture that is different from your own personally and professionally,” Cook said.

Through his experiences, Cook was also able to assist in opening an English learning center for students in Madagascar.

“Ohio State works really hard to inspire others to service-related activities for people, so there is more than development of the self, but it also helps to develop people from other cultures as well,” Cook said.

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