For many students, the College of William and Mary provides more than a rigorous academic program in a small, historic town. It also prepares them to embark on the adventure of a lifetime: entering the Peace Corps.
Among medium-sized universities, the College ranked No. 8 in the nation for producing Peace Corps volunteers. A total of 571 College alumni have served in the Peace Corps since its inception in 1961, and 37 alumni are currently serving.
Additionally, many of the College’s current graduate students are former members of the program. Sandy Halasz MBA ’13 served in Senegal, Charlie Seltzer MBA ’13 served in the Dominican Republic and Chad Chadbourn MBA ’13 served in Costa Rica. All entered the Peace Corps after they graduated from college. Each expressed a desire to get involved with meaningful international work.
“It really hit me my senior year of undergrad — I wanted to do something different. The Peace Corps was the perfect balance between being productive and having an adventure,” Halasz said.
Seltzer was attracted to the program because he wanted to immerse himself in a new culture.
“I was interested in learning the Spanish language, a foreign culture, and I wanted to get involved in international development that would provide me with work experience with a great impact,” Seltzer said.
Chadbourn echoed the desire to enter into work that was focused on development.
“My attraction to the Peace Corps stems from my undergraduate background at the University of Mary Washington,” he said. “I was inspired from studying abroad as an undergraduate and also taking a Latin American development course. As a senior, I was unsure of what I wanted to do, but I liked the fact that the Peace Corps fosters intercultural development.”
Seltzer described certain features of the College that may attract students who later become interested in joining the Peace Corps.
“I wasn’t surprised William and Mary ranked so high for supplying Peace Corps members—it’s very interested in the nonprofit, international realm,” Seltzer said. “William and Mary [emphasizes] learning and self-growth.”
Halasz discussed the unique aspects of the College’s business program that attract former Peace Corps members.
“The business program [at the College] is very internationally focused and attracts the kind of student who wants to know more about the world,” she said.
“It doesn’t surprise me that the College is a top producer. The Peace Corps is already popular among smaller schools,” he said. “But I think the College also has a large number of international students and a prominent study abroad program, which helps pull students to the Peace Corps. It also helps when there is a strong presence of graduates who have served in the Peace Corps.”
After finishing his two years in Costa Rica, Chadbourn worked for an economic development firm and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but he decided to pursue his MBA at the College in order to gain marketing experience. Halasz had a similar goal of pursuing more education to bring to a business career.
“I saw people I graduated with working nine-to-five jobs at a desk. But in the Peace Corps, I had a different experience every day,” Chadbourn said. “I got to learn a different language, learn about a different culture and know what it is like spending Christmas abroad.”
Seltzer described working with a coffee grower in the Dominican Republic as a life-changing experience.
“I didn’t realize how much I’d learn about myself and about international development and poverty. It’s hard to describe what you gain. … You just have to find out for yourself,” Seltzer said.