Knox was recently ranked 10th among small schools of under 5,000 students for the number of Peace Corps volunteers currently serving. At the moment, 13 Knox alumni are volunteers with the organization.
The Peace Corps ranks these schools by number, not per capita, so Knox is near the top of the list alongside schools of nearly three times its size.
Senior Eli Mulhausen was recently accepted into the Peace Corps on a program that will leave in July 2014 and last until September 2016. He will be working with coastal resource management in the Philippines after graduating with a major in Environmental Studies. He did not participate in Knox’s official Peace Corps Preparatory Program while at Knox, but found that other experiences here contributed to his interest in volunteering.
“I studied abroad in Thailand and it was very field course intensive and that made me think more seriously about it, because doing field work is kind of cool and hands-on experiential learning and sustainable development on a grassroots level really interested me,” he said.
Mulhausen also spoke with Professor of Economics Steve Cohn, who previously volunteered with the Peace Corps, about the benefits and downsides of the program. He said that his discussion with Cohn was another major contributor to his decision to apply.
Senior Matt Hendrick is majoring in English and secondary education and plans to volunteer with the Peace Corps in September to teach English in Ukraine. He is still waiting to get his formal invitation, but should be receiving confirmation in the next month. Hendrick did not participate in the Preparatory Program while at Knox, but became interested in the Peace Corps after going to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona with the Education Department this past summer.
According to Robin Ragan, Director of the Peace Corps Preparatory Program, the Peace Corps has been popular with Knox students because it gives them an opportunity to reach out to others based on the values they are exposed to in their educations at Knox.
“I think that students see in the Peace Corps an opportunity to put their education to work in a meaningful way, and I think that’s a value that we instill in our students. A lot of our history is based on social justice and access to education, and I think it just makes sense that students are immersed in those values at Knox and then want to find a way to use their education to further the education of others,” she said.
Hendrick believes that the diversity of the Knox student body and the acceptance fostered here allows students to know themselves as individuals in a way that is valuable to being in the Peace Corps.
“I think that just helps people because the Peace Corps is kind of a solitary thing with working with your community, but you need a firm sense of who you are to be able to go to a country and live there for 27 months pretty much on your own and get away from your family, your friends, everything that you’re comfortable with. I think that Knox kind of just helps you be an individual in that aspect.”
Knox was also the first college or university in the nation to offer the official Prep Program. Students can apply to this program during their sophomore year and follow a curriculum designed to help them prepare for the Peace Corps and make them a more competitive applicant.
“It’s a set of courses that we feel are good prep because either they talk about power structures, diversity or different cultures,” Ragan said. “They’re courses that Knox students typically take anyway, but courses that are often on the diversity list. Taking those courses is good prep for the Peace Corps.”
Ragan also noted that she believes students are encouraged to consider problems from many perspectives, a skill that is vital to service in the Peace Corps.
“Knox is a place where we encourage you to think about solutions … to the world’s problems from many, many perspectives, and we encourage interdisciplinarity, and I think the Peace Corps gives students the freedom to come up with projects and proposals and solutions that lets them take all of those perspectives that they’ve had in classes and put them to work.”