For the second year in a row, the Peace Corps has ranked Knox in the top 10 schools of under 5,000 students for producing the most volunteers. The college tied with four other colleges for 10th place and had 11 volunteers serving in 2014.
According to Director of the Center for Global Studies and the Peace Corps Preparatory Program Robin Ragan, these numbers are a bit “arbitrary,” as the Peace Corps counts the number of volunteers in the field on a specific date.
“Part of me was really nervous that just as a fluke we made the top 10 last year and that it wasn’t going to happen again because of the way they calculate it,” Ragan said. “So I was really relieved and surprised that we did make it again.”
Knox enrolls about 1,400 students, but is ranked among colleges with up to 5,000 students on campus. Ragan noted that Knox would be higher up in the rankings if the Peace Corps counted volunteers per capita.
The Center of Global Studies recently moved into Alumni Hall. Now, the office displays a map of the world that shows where alumni in the Peace Corps are currently serving.
“Moving over here to Alumni Hall gave us the space to make Peace Corps more visible as well, so when people come into our area they see the wall display and can put names to faces and where they’re serving and what kinds of service they’re doing,” Ragan said.
The college has also brought in alumni every term to talk about their service in the Peace Corps to attract interested students.
Knox was the first college to offer a Peace Corps Preparatory Program. The program started at Knox in 2007. Now, Knox is among 26 schools that offer similar programs.
Students at Knox generally apply to participate in the program their sophomore year. Ragan said that by participating in the Peace Corps Preparatory Program, students are more competitive when they apply to serve in the Peace Corps.
She said that the Peace Corps needs people with practical skills, like knowing how to garden, build, teach or provide health care.
“That’s not exactly what we produce at a liberal arts college. So the Prep Program allows students to take courses that will help highlight those types of practical skills and make them more competitive,” Ragan said.
In the program, students are required to study a foreign language for two years. They also must take one “enhancement” course that focuses on a skill like construction, teaching or health care.
Ragan also noted that changes made by the Peace Corps as an organization may be drawing more students to the program. She said that they have restructured their application process.
“Now students don’t have to wait so long to find out if they got in or wait so long to find out where they’re going to serve. That may play into some of the appeal.”
The Peace Corps also now allows same-sex couples to serve together. Unmarried couples and friends who are not in romantic relationships also have the opportunity to serve together.