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Corps recognizes University

Aubrey Butts | Friday, February 15, 2013

Notre Dame graduates again swelled the ranks of Peace Corps volunteers during the past year, earning the University the18th slot on the Peace Corps’ annual review of the top volunteer-producing midsized colleges and universities across the country.

The University website reports that about 80 percent of Notre Dame students are involved in service through the Center forSocial Concerns, while at least 10 percent of graduates spend a year or more volunteering.

Mike Hebbeler, a director in the Center for Social Concerns said this culture of service at the university as a principle reason for Notre Dame’s 18th spot on the list.

“A good number of students are actively engaged in service learning projects, community service, and international development. Many students come in with these interests, and the university does a great job of deepening those interests,” Hebbeler said.

In a press release announcing celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, Rok Teasley, a Peace Corps recruiter, also commended Notre Dame students for their ability to translate their classroom learning into practice.

“Notre Dame students enter into service with an excellent understanding of the issues global communities are facing,” Teasley said. “I am constantly inspired by the students I speak with and their passion and commitment to social justice, sustainable change and working to bring peace into the world.”

This is the 13th consecutive year Notre Dame has made the Corps’ list. Since the Peace Corps was formed in 1961, 865 Notre Dame alumni have served as Peace Corps volunteers.

Twenty-three graduates currently volunteer with the Corps abroad.

Still, Hebbeler said students often fear entering into post-graduate service programs because of their perceived effect on their future careers.

“So often, I hear students say, ‘I’m falling behind’ or ‘my friends are advancing their careers,'” Hebbeler said. “They see it as taking a year off. As our recruiter likes to say, if you spend two years though doing project development in Moldova and you return to the States to find friends working for a certain firm, you’re going to come back and be their boss.”

Rather than viewing post-graduate service as time off, Hebbeler said students should embrace these programs as opportunities for maturation and becoming more independent and creative, all skills transferrable to the American workforce.

“You can call it a job or you can call it service. The work doesn’t change,” Hebbeler said.

Patrick Starr, a recent graduate of the Peace Corps, explained in a press release how his time in Benin helped clarify his future professional goals.

“My service still resonates very powerfully with me today. I decided to attend business school immediately following the Peace Corps to hone my financial skills in preparation for a career in impact investing,” Starr said. “I hope that by targeting investments of capital to the people most in need, I can marry my background in finance with my love of serving others.”

Post-graduate service does not suit everybody, however, and Hebbeler ensures students fully consider their motivations for entering into a service program.

“The first step is taking a moment to think more deeply about what they feel called to and what is stirring within them,” Hebbeler said. “I challenge them to think about the mission of the University and how that might be a guide for them as they enter into the world.”

The Peace Corps has opportunities for students from all disciplines, and Hebbeler encourages students from across the university to consider post-graduate service.

“Take the time to listen to what’s stirring within you and think deeply about how you might live out the gospel, how you might work for justice and contribute to the common good,” Hebbeler said. “The Peace Corps allows you to live out these motivations daily.”

Contact Aubrey Butts at abutts@nd.edu