Fifty-eight Cornellians joined the Peace Corps in 2011, more than any other Ivy League university, according to Jim Haldeman, senior associate director of Cornell’s international programs, which includes the University’s Peace Corps program.
Haldeman said that, despite the recent economic downturn, the number of Cornell students who apply to volunteer for the Peace Corps does not appear to have declined. While the number of Cornellians accepted to the Corps increased this year, the percentage of students selected from the applicant pool has decreased, he said.
In the past, nearly all Cornell applicants have received a nomination, Haldeman said. However, this year, Haldeman estimated that only one out of every three Cornell applicants will secure a nomination, and that the proportion will soon slip even lower, to one out of every four Cornell applicants.
Joseph Tamburello grad, the Peace Corps’ campus representative at Cornell, echoed Haldeman’s sentiments, attributing his predictions to an increasingly competitive applicant field.
“There are not quite as many positions as last year due to [the Peace Corps’] budget constraints, and there are probably more applicants than last year,” Tamburello said.
He emphasized that while the number of positions available in the Peace Corps is shrinking, the number of nominations awarded to Cornell students has not decreased in the last four years.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences produces a consistent base of students who volunteer for agricultural jobs, a field in which there is always a demand for volunteer work, according to Tamburello.
“I think that we will always be a top-producing school because we have a big emphasis on agriculture, and in developing countries there is a big need for understanding animal science, plant science and [nutrition],” Tamburello said.
Haldeman said he believes that the Peace Corps recruitment at Cornell will continue to thrive in large part due to programs offered in CALS.
“Cornell has found success in recruiting for the Peace Corps because we have CALS, and it is a top priority of the Peace Corps to attract volunteers who can work in agriculture,” he said.
Tamburello added that Cornell is working to ensure its students are equipped with abilities sought by the Peace Corps.
“Right now, there is a real focus on specific assignment areas and specific programs, and we are trying to come up with a list of more scarce skills –– which include, for example, knowledge of modern agriculture, how the environment functions and how to educate,” he said. “And Cornell students have all these scarce skills.”
The application is a two-step process: First, the Peace Corps’ regional office reviews applications and grants interviews to certain candidates. After the interviews, applicants are reevaluated and the regional office announces its chosen nominees, according to the Peace Corps website.
Tamburello added that he believes the program will continue to grow at the University, adding that Cornell students’ skills and enthusiasm will be the principal cause of growth.
“Cornell students are eager to help, and they want to volunteer,” he said. “The Peace Corps program really complements their education.”
Original Author: Justin Rouillier