February 17, 2015, BY Kathryn Kopchik

Alexandra Clayton '12 with host sister at women's festival
Alexandra Clayton '12 with host sister at women's festival

The Peace Corps today announced its 2015 rankings of the top volunteer-producing colleges and universities across the country. This year, Bucknell University ranked No. 6 among small schools, with 13 alumni volunteering worldwide.  In 2014, Bucknell held the No. 10 position.

Bucknell alumni are serving in Armenia, Gambia, Guatemala, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Paraguay, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. They work in sectors including agriculture, education, environment, health and community economic development.

"The Peace Corps provides an indispensable opportunity for young people out of college to put their unique skills to work making a difference for communities around the world," Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. "Volunteers make lasting change by living and working at the grassroots level in their communities of service and using their talents to tackle some of the most critical challenges in international development."

Alumni from more than 3,000 colleges and universities nationwide have served in the Peace Corps since the agency's founding in 1961, including 276 Bucknell alumni.

"My primary assignment goal was to improve the food security of rural families, especially for the most vulnerable populations," said Alexandra Clayton, a 2012 Bucknell graduate who recently completed her Peace Corps service as an agricultural extension volunteer in Nepal.

"While I am extremely proud and excited that my village and I were able to construct our vegetable collection center, I think that oftentimes the most impacts we make as volunteers are through everyday actions and conversation. I'd like to think that through the map projects and library at the school, that maybe one or two kids develop a passion and love for reading at a young age like I did, or a student is inspired to learn more about geography and the world around them.

"I'd also like to think that my community learned more about what they thought of as 'crazy American culture' through me. A lot of the friends I made in my village loved hearing about American holidays and the latest technology and how our school system worked. In turn, they would teach me about Nepali holidays and other aspects of the culture."

Clayton's primary assignment goal was to improve the food security of rural families. After conducting a needs assessment, she and her local agriculture group applied for a grant and were awarded more than $5,000 in USAID funds. The funds were used to build a collection center and form a cooperative to sell vegetables at a larger market. The building also served as a gathering center for the community.

"My secondary projects included two map projects that wove together art and global education for students at the local secondary school, the establishment of a library there, and Camp GLOW, (Girls Leading Our World), a female empowerment and life skills camp," she said.

Clayton said she developed an increased interest in community service through her participation in a Habitat for Humanity Spring Break trip in rural West Virginia and as a member of the Bucknell Brigade.

Three Pennsylvania institutions were included in the 2015 rankings. Dickinson College and Bucknell University tied for the No. 6 position on the small school list, with 13 alumni from each institution volunteering worldwide. Allegheny College, which had 12 alumni serving overseas, ranked No. 8 among small schools. 

In 2014, Pennsylvania was the No. 6 Peace Corps volunteer-producing state in the nation with 270 Keystone State residents serving in the Peace Corps. This year's rankings follow historic reforms to Peace Corps' application and selection process, led by Hessler-Radelet, that resulted in a 22-year application high for the agency in 2014. Applicants will find a simplified, more personal application process, and can learn more by reaching out to the Northeast regional recruitment office at nyinfo@peacecorps.gov.