Macalester College earns spot on Peace Corps’ annual Top Schools rankings

Peace Corps Volunteer Kaija Bergen, a Macalester alum, sips coconut milk in Cambodia.

CHICAGO – For the eighth year in a row, Macalester College has earned a spot on Peace Corps’ annual list of the top volunteer-producing small colleges and universities across the country. With 15 alumni currently serving overseas as Peace Corps volunteers, the school ranks No. 18 and remains a solid source of individuals committed to making a difference at home and abroad. Since the agency was created in 1961, 350 Macalester graduates have served as Peace Corps volunteers.

“Every year, graduates of colleges and universities across the United States are making a difference in communities overseas through Peace Corps service,” said Acting Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet (Peace Corps Volunteer, Western Samoa, 1981-83). “As a result of the top-notch education they receive, these graduates are well prepared for the challenge of international service. They become leaders in their host communities and carry the spirit of service and leadership back with them when they return home.”

Peace Corps Volunteer Kaija Bergen, of Fort Collins, Colo., graduated from Macalester in May 2011 with a degree in International Studies and English. As an education volunteer currently serving in Cambodia, Bergen teaches English to college students in training to become primary school teachers. She also teamed up with another Peace Corps volunteer to teach students 20 hands-on science experiments that the students, in turn, shared with incoming new students – a strategy that guarantees Bergen’s work is sustainable and will continue to make a difference after she finishes service.

The hallmark of Peace Corps service is the two-way cultural exchange that benefits both the volunteer and the host country, and Bergen says she appreciates that all the more because of her time at Macalester.

“I think more than anything, Macalester shaped how I think about the world, and particularly how I relate to and understand other countries and people,” Bergen, 23, said. “Because of everything I learned at Macalester, I was drawn to Peace Corps and the value it places on integration and cultural understanding.”

Nationally, the University of Washington and the University of Florida outpaced large universities with more than 15,000 undergraduates, with 107 alumni from each school currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers. Among midsized schools with populations between 5,000 and 15,000 undergrads, Western Washington University ranked No. 1 with 73 alumni serving.  For small schools such as Macalester with fewer than 5,000 undergrads, Gonzaga University topped the list, with 24 graduates currently serving. You can view the entire top 25 rankings for each school size category here.

Three other Twin Cities-area colleges made the list. Of schools with smaller student populations, St. Olaf College ranks No. 2 with 22 alumni Peace Corps volunteers in the field, and Carleton College has 16 volunteers serving and ranks No. 8. Also, the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities ranks No. 20 among large universities, with 58 alumni volunteers.

More than 8,000 volunteers representing all 50 states and more than a thousand colleges are working with communities in 76 host countries on sustainable development projects related to agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth development.

Peace Corps service makes a difference not only to the communities served, but also to the volunteers themselves, who return home as global citizens with cross-cultural, leadership, language, teaching and community development skills that position them for advanced education and professional opportunities in today’s global job market. Ninety percent of volunteer positions require a bachelor’s degree. Volunteers receive paid living expenses and full health and dental coverage while overseas, and upon completing their 27-month service they are eligible for graduate school programs and federal hiring benefits.

“Peace Corps service is making a difference in the lives of volunteers by preparing them with 21st-century job skills like language and technical training, so when they come home they are ready to launch a career and give back to their communities,” said Hessler-Radelet.

Graduating college students are encouraged to apply by Thursday, Feb. 28 for remaining assignment openings for 2013, and the chance to be considered for programs in early 2014.

Twin Cities-based Peace Corps recruiter Janice McInerney, a returned volunteer who served in Ukraine, advises and interviews Macalester candidates and can be reached at She will also be holding a Peace Corps Information Session and Application Workshop on campus this semester:

  • Wednesday, Feb. 27, 6 p.m., Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center , Room 214
  • Thursday, March 14, 5 p.m., Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center, Room 214

Approximately 233 Minnesota residents are currently serving in the Peace Corps, with the Twin Cities among the top metro areas nationwide in producing volunteers. Overall, 6,287 Minnesota residents have served since the agency was created in 1961.

About the Peace Corps: Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 210,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 8,073 volunteers are working with local communities in 76 host countries in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth in development. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit for more information, and read about the work and experiences of currently serving Midwestern volunteers at

One thought on “Macalester College earns spot on Peace Corps’ annual Top Schools rankings

  1. Pingback: Minnesota, Twin Cities rank as top producers of Peace Corps volunteers in 2013 | Midwest Peace Corps Volunteers Making a Difference

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