Graduates choose to serve through Peace Corps

Come March, Steve Root, a recent UM alumnus, will trek across the world to begin his 27-month journey as a Peace Corps volunteer. Root has been assigned to c in central Asia, where he will live with a host family and teach English at a local school.

Root is only one of several recently accepted UM alumni who have chosen the Peace Corps as their post-graduation plan.

“It will be incredibly rewarding to experience life from a new perspective,” Root said.

In early February, UM was ranked No. 21 among the Peace Corps’ “Top Peace Corps Volunteer Producing Colleges and Universities.” The rankings represent the university’s strong inclination towards volunteerism and interest in public service over traditional post-graduation options like graduate school or the work force.

“I really wanted to travel and volunteer when I got out of school. When I studied abroad I decided that I wanted to travel a lot more, and the Peace Corps was the perfect opportunity for me to volunteer and travel at the same time, so it was perfect,” Root said.

Root claims it took approximately seven months to begin paperwork, go through medical clearance and hear a final decision about his application.  Accepted applicants are notified about three or four months before a designated departure date is set and are given a welcome letter with details about their assignment and country of service.

Immediately following her own graduation, UM President Donna E. Shalala served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran in the 1960s, teaching English in a local school.

“I applied to law school and I applied to graduate school. I had a couple of job offers from newspapers; I was going to be a journalist. I laid them all out on my bed in college and decided that the greatest adventure would be joining the Peace Corps,” Shalala said. “I think the Peace Corps made me a citizen of the world. It made me comfortable in any difficult job.”

The university’s diversity is a strengthening quality that inspires students to help others and apply for service.

“I think the diversity of our campus makes the students far more able to go abroad and be a Peace Corps volunteer. They’ve learned to live with people from different backgrounds and they’ve learned from different cultures,” Shalala said.

On March 8, Shalala will join other returned Peace Corps volunteers in the McLamore Executive Education Center at the School of Business Administration to discuss their personal experiences, the application process and the benefits of volunteering.