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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Tufts ranks high for producing Peace Corps volunteers

Tufts University ranked ninth among top medium-sized schools that produce Peace Corps volunteers, up from 15th in 2013. Twenty-four of Tufts’ undergraduate alumni are currently serving abroad with the program.

Many students and officials have attributed the high number of Tufts volunteers to the focus on service work that is embedded in the university’s values. Since 1961, 541 Tufts undergraduate alumni have served with Peace Corps.

“There’s a tradition at Tufts University of engaging with the world and being what we call ‘active citizens,’” Dean of Tisch College Alan Solomont said. “And I see service in the Peace Corps as an expression of wanting to engage in the world and wanting to be an active citizen.”

Hyomi Carty (A ’12), currently serving in the Peace Corps in the Kingdom of Swaziland, echoed Solomont’s sentiments.

“Tufts strongly promotes the idea that, as educated and informed citizens of our local, national and global communities, we have a responsibility to give back and engage in pursuits that benefit the greater good,” Carty told the Daily in an email. “This widespread mentality on campus motivated me to work in a field where I would be able to fully employ this ideal.”

In particular, college majors can influence students’ likelihood to volunteer, according to Katrina Deutsch, the field-based Peace Corps recruiter for the Boston area. Some majors more likely to volunteer include community health, environmental studies and international relations. But area of study not the sole determinant for applicants’ interest.

“I interview all sorts of people — a lot of English majors, education majors and mechanical engineers,” she said. “You don’t have to have a specific major in order to be a Peace Corps volunteer. You can come in with any major in the world.”

The presence of Tisch College at Tufts allows all students to get involved in service opportunities during their undergraduate experience, Solomont said.

“[Service work] is both part of the tradition of this university, but it’s also an intentional part of its mission as represented by the fact that 15 years ago, Tisch College was created to institutionalize this culture of engagement,” Solomont said. “It is the general atmosphere of both the kinds of students we attract, but also the kinds of students we graduate.”

Allison Lawrence (A ’11), a Peace Corps volunteer, credited much of her post-graduate path to programs like Tisch.

“I think had I not been in the Tisch College program and [spent] a lot of time studying and getting hands-on experience with the issues surrounding integrating into communities and working with community partners, that I would’ve struggled a lot more in the beginning of my service,” she said.

In addition to providing an atmosphere focused on service work, Tufts provides many resources for students interested in joining the Peace Corps. According to Deutsch, the Peace Corps is present at the Fall Career Fair, the Careers in the Common Good Networking Night and the newly introduced Gap Year Job Fair.

Deutsch said she encourages the Career Center to direct interested students to her. Once they are in contact, she advises students on their application and decision, and makes sure that each student understands the extent of their 27-month commitment.

“[The Peace Corps is] a way of increasing our understanding of our country and of our country understanding other cultures and other countries,” Solomont said.

But like every program, the Peace Corps has its drawbacks.

“A lot of Peace Corps volunteers say that during your two year [service] you have the highest highs and the lowest lows,” Lawrence said. “There’s nothing like being there in a place that doesn’t have cell phone service, the Internet or any way to call people from home.”

Carty said living amid a culture with different social norms has made elements of her volunteer work particularly difficult.

“I find it difficult to swallow the level of gender inequality in this country, as well as the way in which young girls and women are often objectified by men,” Carty said of her experience in the Kingdom of Swaziland. “Also, I am frustrated by the lack of behavior change surrounding HIV prevention. Attitudes toward protection and contraception are very slow to change.”

As a result, Carty said students interested in the Peace Corps should have a complete understanding of the program, and should maintain realistic expectations about the experience.

“Do not go in with the arrogant expectation that you will make some monumental, important change,” Carty said. “Enter service with an attitude of humility and a desire to keep an open mind and learn from the people you live and work with. It will be hard, and you will be pushed to your limits. But maintain a positive and determined attitude, and you’ll be able to overcome any obstacle you’re faced with.”

While some Peace Corps volunteers change career paths after their volunteer experience, others have made it part of a track toward work in other areas of international relations.

“I was a little unusual because Peace Corps was actually a part of my strategy

... I thought I wanted to go into international development, but going out of college I still didn’t feel like I totally knew what that meant or what that entailed,” Katie Baczewski, a former Peace Corps volunteer and current student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, said. “[My] Peace Corps [experience] was12

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