CSU ranked No. 11 among top Peace Corps producing colleges of the last 20 years

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Colorado State University has been ranked the 11th top Peace Corps producing college of the last 20 years, continuing a legacy that began in 1961, when two CSU researchers published a feasibility study that helped lead to the international development organization’s creation. 

This ranking comes after a historic three years for the Peace Corps, which suspended global operations and evacuated nearly 7,000 volunteers – including 40 CSU alumni – at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. 

“The CSU Peace Corps community is incredibly honored to have been ranked as a top sending university,” said Nicole Pawloski, a program manager in the Office of International Programs, who served in the Peace Corps in Mongolia from 2013-15. “We are proud of our Peace Corps strategic recruiters who continued to keep the spirit of the Peace Corps alive on our campus during the pandemic.” 

As countries have lifted restrictions, more than 1,400 volunteers have returned to 53 countries around the world, including six CSU alumni. All told, more than 1,778 Rams and 7,678 Coloradans have served in the Peace Corps since it was founded in 1961 – and Colorado is ranked No. 13 among states and territories with the highest number of volunteers. 

“Demand for Peace Corps volunteers is high given setbacks in development progress following the COVID-19 pandemic. There is an urgent call to action, and graduates of the Colorado State University are part of a strong tradition of big-hearted problem solvers who have stepped up to say, ‘Count me in!’” said Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn. “Peace Corps service is the beginning of a lifetime of global connection and purpose for those bold enough to accept the invitation.”

A new Peace Corps recruiter is slated to start at CSU this fall. 

“It’s incredibly hopeful to see our students graduate from CSU and contribute to the world in such a positive and meaningful way,” Pawloski said. 

Seeds of service planted at CSU

This interactive map shows where some CSU alumni have served during their time in the Peace Corps. 

Not long after President John F. Kennedy delivered the October 1960 speech that led to the inception of the Peace Corps, a call went out to Maurice “Maury” Albertson – the director of the CSU Research Foundation, faculty member in the civil engineering department and a well-known figure in the field of international development. 

He ultimately received a grant to prepare a Congressional Feasibility Study on the “advisability and practicality” of what would later become the Peace Corps. The report, which was co-authored by Pauline Birky-Kreutzer, laid the early groundwork on “the whole idea of Americans going overseas, not to win wars, but help build societies,” wrote John Coyne, one of the Peace Corps’ earliest volunteers who later became a respected historian of the organization

Work began on this study in 1960, and by the fall of 1961, 400 volunteers were already in the field. Since its inception, more than 240,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps and served in 143 countries, offering their assistance in areas such as agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health, and youth development.

Peace Corps Tribute Garden planted near center of campus

John Roberts, John Kefalas, Amy Parsons and Kathleen Fairfax

CSU celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps by breaking ground on a Peace Corps Memorial Garden on March 1, 2023 (Photo: John Eisele, CSU Photography)

The legacy of the Peace Corps at CSU will be honored for years to come thanks to a tribute garden that is being added this year just west of the Lory Student Center Theatre. 

“Even as it’s held an important place in our history and our hearts, the CSU Peace Corps legacy hasn’t been reflected in the geography of campus for all to see until now,” CSU President Amy Parsons said during a groundbreaking ceremony on March 1. “So our hope is that this space will be a reminder, a record and an inspiration to future generations.”

To make a donation to the Peace Corps Fund at CSU, visit col.st/OTZlA.

The Peace Corps is continuing to monitor COVID-19 trends in its host countries and is working to send volunteers as conditions allow. More information about volunteering is available at peacecorps.gov/apply. Those who apply before July 1 could have the opportunity to serve before the end of the year.