By Audrey Roen, The Daily Iowan
Peace Corps officials say the group is seeing record number of volunteers this year, which may coincide with the organization’s growing popularity as an alternative to graduate school or jobs following graduation.
Currently, the organization has 9,095 U.S. volunteers stationed around the globe, said Meredith Mahy Gall, the University of Iowa Peace Corps representative. Included in that number are 41 UI alumni.
She presented volunteer options to UI undergraduate students interested in joining the Peace Corps in a meeting on Monday.
Mahy Gall said volunteering with the organization — now in its 50th year — is an excellent way to gain experience, and Peace Corps veterans are more marketable when applying for jobs or graduate school.
“In the Peace Corps, you are able to tackle a project without much guidance, you need to be flexible every single day and be very adaptable,” said David Wylie, a Grinnell College graduate who volunteered in the country of Georgia. “Those are qualities that are very important in the job market today, and something that you don’t get to experience in your first job out of college.”
Mahy Gall has noticed a trend of students who have chosen alternative post-graduation lives.
This year, she said, she has seen an increase in the number of UI students interested in joining the Peace Corps.
“Because of the job market, people are looking for options …” said Greg Bauer, a University of Chicago graduate.
Though first skeptical about volunteering, he said he felt the need to continue in some kind of service following graduation.
“Some people do great things; other people slack off … It’s different for everyone,” he said.
Bauer said following his return from Cambodia a month ago, he has considered applying to the UI graduate school.
“A lot of people are motivated to just help others.”
Veronique Porter, who volunteered with the Peace Corps in Africa, said the organization helped shape her career choices after college graduation while allowing her to give back to African societies in need.
“I wanted to help people,” she said. “And I know, in some intangible way, it would shape … the way my career would go, and thankfully, it has.”
Porter said she feels the organization’s increased recognition is an appealing next step for students, rather than a career right out of college.
“You want to make yourself as marketable as you can, and [the] Peace Corps is one of those places you can do that,” she said.
Though there are many different reasons for joining, the volunteers agree people are motivated to help others.
“A lot of people are motivated to just help others,” Mahy Gall said. “They’d like to help in another country, another community, and practicing getting practical real world experience before getting their graduate or after their undergrad.”