February 27, 2008

Graduates Turn to Public Service

Print More

When deciding what paths to take after graduation, Cornell students continue to look towards service opportunities — as evidenced by the record number of applicants to Teach For America and the high volume of Peace Corps members. This year, the University ranked fourth among mid-sized universities for its number of Peace Corps volunteers.
225 Cornell students applied to TFA, representing the highest number of applications that the organization has ever received from Cornell. According to Lisa [img_assist|nid=28268|title=Peace Corps Volunteers at Cornell|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]Krauthamer, Cornell’s Teach For America recruitment director, 24 Cornellians have been accepted into TFA so far, and many more are waiting to hear back.
Krauthamer indicated that several more Cornell students will likely be accepted. Last year, 35 out of 45 accepted Cornellians elected to participate in the program; they are currently teaching at schools across the country.
According to Krauthamer, many Cornell students are attracted to TFA because they are looking to take on a significant leadership roles after college.
“Teach For America is for people who don’t just want to think about what is wrong and how things could be better, but for people who actually want to take control and work hard to make things better,” she said.
Participation in TFA allows graduates to combat inequality in the education system, which many consider to be one of the greatest injustices facing the country.
With an understanding of the enormity of the problem, “many Cornellians who apply want to take action and change things in our society that they know are wrong,” Krauthamer said.
Students have been comparably active in the Peace Corps. Each year the Peace Corps lists the colleges and universities that produce the most volunteers. The colleges are divided into categories based on size. Cornell placed forth in the 2008 rankings of institutions with between 5,001 and 15,000 undergraduates, and there are currently 52 alumni serving as Peace Corps volunteers. Since the organization’s inception in 1961, nearly 650 Cornell alumni have volunteered.
According to John Brighenti, Cornell’s Peace Corps coordinator, many students are attracted to the Peace Corps because of the opportunity it offers for international experience. He partially attributed the large number of Cornell volunteers to the research aspect of the institution. In Brighenti’s opinion, Cornellians are exposed to theory and research that generates usable results. The Peace Corps provides students the opportunity to see such research applied in the field.
“I particularly chose the Peace Corps because I believe in the mission of helping other people understand America — that the country is not desiring to be a world empire, but a beacon for civil and human rights,” said Vince Hartman ’08, Student Assembly representative. “I also want to understand other cultures and grasp a large global view.”
Hartman is scheduled to be a business advisor in Central or South America after graduation.
In addition to experiencing the programs themselves, many Cornell students are realizing the great opportunities that participation in the Peace Corps and Teach for America will afford them after completion.
“Those returning from the Peace Corp pursue everything from business to education or continuing service,” Brighenti said.
Interested students will have the opportunity to attend an upcoming panel of returned Peace Corps volunteers of all ages that have served all over the world. The panel will be taking place this tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the International Room of the Straight.
According to Hartman, the pull and importance of the private sector are deterrents to some who might otherwise be interested in the Peace Corps — but those who do participate feel that it is most important for students to be pursuing goals that will help others to recognize the impact of their decisions on the wider, national and international communities.
During the application process, Hartman realized that university and institutional loans were deferrable for neither the Peace Corps nor Teach For America. He brought the issue to the attention of the administration, which has since added a deferment provision to loans during students’ participation in such volunteer organizations.
The provision also aligns institutional and university loans with all federally-funded loans that permit deferment for both organizations. The administration’s action in this instance is indicative of the University’s wider support and commitment to student service.