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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

UF leads the Southeast in Peace Corps volunteers

At least one top ranking this year can offer the UF administration a little peace of mind.

UF ranks as the No. 1 campus recruiter for the Peace Corps not only in Florida but in the entire Southeast, which includes six states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Additionally, UF ranked No. 17 nationally in January on the Peace Corps' list of large colleges and universities that produced the most volunteers in 2007.

Amy Panikowski, a campus recruiter in UF's Peace Corps office, said those rankings translated to a total of 59 volunteers UF recruited for the Peace Corps this past year.

Of those, 55 were UF students.

In addition to the sheer size of the school, Panikowski stressed the enthusiasm for and dedication to service that she sees in UF students as a reason for the high recruitment.

"They can sit here. They can send money. They can protest. They can do whatever here, but actually getting over there and seeing what's going on is a huge difference for them," she said.

Volunteers are nominated according to their skill sets after applicants choose the top three regional programs where they could be assigned, she said.

Joining the Peace Corps requires a two-year commitment in addition to three months of on-site training, where volunteers learn the native language. The learning process entails four hours of lessons six days a week, she said.

From 2001 to 2002, Panikowski, a UF geography graduate student, worked in a Malawian national park for the Peace Corps as a parks and wildlife officer.

For the upcoming semester, UF's Peace Corps office plans to boost recruitment, resurrect a support group for returned volunteers and host Peace Corps speakers.

Megan Orsini, a recent UF alumna, shipped out Aug. 15 to the Philippines, where she will teach English for two years. Orsini said the time commitment doesn't worry her when she compares it to the amount of time she was in college.

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"I'm going to be over there and be like, 'Wow, it's almost over,'" she said.

For more information about the Peace Corps on campus, contact Panikowski at (352) 273-1530.

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