UT Austin Ranks Among Peace Corps’ Top Volunteer-Producing Schools
- May 30, 2023
More than 1,922 Longhorns have served abroad as Peace Corps Volunteers since the agency’s founding in 1961, earning The University of Texas at Austin a Top 10 ranking as a historically top volunteer-producing school in the nation, Peace Corps announced last week.
Ranking UT Austin No. 9 nationally and No. 1 in Texas, the recognition acknowledges the university’s international community and concerted efforts to further its global impact, in this case through committed service around the world.
“There is an urgent call to action, and graduates of The University of Texas at Austin 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.”
UT Austin is one of nearly 150 schools across the country that offer Peace Corps Prep, a partnership certification program dedicated to equipping students with the necessary tools to serve internationally.
Finding Purpose Through Service
Texas Ex Nikita Sidorchuk set out to begin his service in Ghana in 2022, shortly after earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics along with a certificate in scientific computation and data science.
In the Volta region of Ghana, Sidorchuk works in a village named Mafi-Yingor, where he is serving as a math teacher at a middle school.
“Despite the poverty and difficult lives of my community members, this village is one of the most warm and welcoming places I have ever been to,” said Sidorchuk. “From only having three teachers for all 100 students, to not having books, to all manner of infrastructural problems, my school has had many challenges, only few of which have been solved. Yet, the community has rallied behind projects to improve the school, and almost all of the students consistently show up for lessons.”
Nearing one full year of service, Sidorchuk describes his time in Ghana as a “beautiful experience.” The most rewarding moments, he says, are getting to witness his students’ progress despite the obstacles faced by the community.
Though his experience is also heartbreaking due to many of these challenges, Sidorchuk says his service is also very often “full of purpose, excitement, connection, novelty and peace.”
Preparing To Serve
In addition to Peace Corps Prep, UT Austin also offers the services of a Peace Corps Recruiter, Maritza De La Peña, who uniquely positions the university to maximize the resources provided to help potential Peace Corps Volunteers.
As a former volunteer in Ukraine 2016-2019, De La Peña now provides guidance and assistance for UT Austin students, faculty and staff, including résumé reviews, one-on-one meetings and interview prep, along with additional Peace Corps resources.
“I was drawn to the idea of living abroad, working directly with people in a field I was passionate about and opening up doors for a new career,” De La Peña said. “These things all felt unattainable at first, but I’m glad that I took those first steps to apply.”
She added, “Now, I’m happy to help students also take this first step. I want students to know there are resources on campus [offered] with UT Austin students, faculty and staff specifically in mind.”
Aside from the Top 10 ranking, the many former Peace Corps Volunteers on the Forty Acres reflect the close campus connection between Peace Corps, Texas Global and the greater Longhorn community, De La Peña added.
Roxanne Bankhead, who is also a Texas Ex and current Peace Corps Volunteer, credits UT Austin for providing those resources along with the encouragement to remain curious about other cultures and perspectives.
"Two areas of my studies prepared me to become a volunteer. First, my international political economy focus taught me how a country's economic policies and actions impact its citizens' daily lives. Second, my studio art professors used world art to help me understand foreign cultures," said Bankhead. "The combination of these two spheres of knowledge has proven invaluable to my work in the Peace Corps as I navigate cultural and economic nuances in my small community."
De La Peña is hosting an application workshop on June 23 ahead of Peace Corps’ July 1 application deadline, for those interested in serving before the end of 2023.
About the Peace Corps: The Peace Corps is an international service network of volunteers, community members, host country partners and staff who are driven by the agency’s mission of world peace and friendship. At the invitation of governments around the world, Peace Corps volunteers work alongside community members on locally prioritized projects in the areas of education, health, environment, agriculture, community economic development and youth development. Through service, members of the Peace Corps network develop transferable skills and hone intercultural competencies that position them to be the next generation of global leaders. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 240,000 Americans have served in 142 countries worldwide. For more information, visit peacecorps.com and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.