The Peace Corps released their annual list of Top Volunteer-Producing Schools for 2018 on Feb. 21, with U.Va. advancing to the No. 6 rank in the nation — tied with The Ohio State University — for the most students recruited from a university. Improving from their No. 15 ranking in 2017, this is the fifth time that the University has ranked in the Peace Corps’ top 25 list for large college and university recruitment. Virginia colleges and universities currently have a state recruitment ranking of No. 4 in the nation with 352 Va. volunteers currently serving with the Peace Corps. Including the newly-recruited members, there are currently 62 Peace Corps members from the University working in humanitarian outreach positions worldwide. The students that have applied and been accepted into the Peace Corps program depart after graduation for a two-year service deployment in a developing foreign country. Their two-year assignment will begin after shadowing a mentor on-site for three months. For many of the students who pursued the Peace Corps through the University, their journeys began early on in their college career. Paige Rogers, a fourth-year College student and newly-accepted Peace Corps member, said she had a Corps guest speaker in one of her classes during her first year. “He had created an invention using women’s headscarves to filter their water which got rid of guinea worms in their village,” Rogers said. “So that was the first time I was exposed to the Peace Corps. I thought that it was interesting how something so simple could eradicate a huge painful issue in this village, so that’s what kind of struck my interest.” In her second year, Rogers attended a Peace Corps information session to learn about the process and what they were looking for in candidates. Afterwards, Rogers modified the classes and extracurriculars she was taking, joining the Peace Corps Prep program in her third year to begin to acquire specialized skill sets. Peace Corps Prep is a partnership between the organization and certain universities, in which students follow a curriculum designed to better prepare them for service in the Corps. These courses focus on topics such as include intercultural training, developing sector-specific skills and foreign language competency and leadership ability. “Through all of my public health classes, the number one priority was to ensure that we understood how to respectfully connect these interventions,” Rogers said. “We looked at a lot of both failed and successful cases of those, which highlighted how to do that in a better way.” Rogers will begin her Peace Corps service in Zambia later this year and will focus on child health and HIV and AIDs prevention. “I like the way the Peace Corps works,” Rogers said. “They think about the long term and form bonds with the villages and communities that they put Peace Corps volunteers in over a long period of time. They really want to have sustainable change.” Ilana Shapiro, a fourth-year College student and newly-accepted Peace Corps member, had known several people who belonged to the Corps and became interested in joining after taking a class at the University last year called “The Politics of Developing Areas.” “It’s something that will be valuable to me, especially in terms of learning live with communities of other cultures and learning to adapt and to learn the new language,” Shapiro said. “To be faced with those kind of challenges will be a good learning experience because of the fact that I want to do development policy work.” Shapiro will be deployed to Morocco later this year to work with Youth and Development which will consist of engagement with people ages six to 30 years old. “It can be anything from teaching at a school, to working in a youth center, working with a local nonprofit, it really really depends,” Shapiro said. “I really won’t know what my job will actually be until three months after I arrive in the country.” In addition to providing campus outreach and recruitment aid to undergraduates, the Peace Corps also offers benefits to graduates who have completed their two years of service with them — such as the Coverdell Fellowship Partners — in which graduate schools recruit past Peace Corps members. In addition, Peace Corps graduates are granted Noncompetitive Eligibility for 12 months after their service, in which they are given preferred eligibility for a federal jobs. “That’s another big aspect about the Peace Corps,” Rogers said. “There’s a lot of benefits, both for your career just going and doing something for two years and three months that’s challenging and really pushes you.” The University is one of two colleges in Virginia to have a Peace Corps staff member available to students as a resource for recruitment. Anna Sullivan is the University’s Peace Corps campus recruiter and helps students in deciding whether to pursue joining the Peace Corps. “[Sullivan] helped me pick the job I’m applying for, she helped me look over my application extensively, she led me to other resources,” Shapiro said. “She was an incredible resource. I talked to her a lot.” Rogers said the Peace Corps recruiting program aims to create a sense of community among individuals involved with the organization. “I think the great thing about the recruiting program is also Anne Sullivan,” Rogers said. “They really try to band us all together, there’s dinners and info sessions … There’s lots of cool things they do to try and form a community.” Whether through Sullivan or the group of University Peace Corp members, there is an emphasis on building and fostering community. “We’ve all sort of become friends and have started sharing resources with each other.” Shapiro said. “It’s kind of a different path, but it’s definitely something that facilitates quick community building.” Since the founding of the Peace Corps, a total of 1,210 University alumni have served with the organization. Recruitment for new applicants will continue throughout 2018.