Celebrating Elon’s role in 60 years of Peace Corps service

The Peace Corps, in commemoration of its 60th anniversary, will host a virtual panel discussion at Elon focused on the value of international service.

Sixty years after President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps, the national organization promoting international peace and friendship through service, is celebrating the thousands of volunteers and partner institutions that have made an impact around the world.

Since the establishment of the Peace Corps, Elon University has produced 145 alumni volunteers who have served within a variety of specialties and supported more than 60 host country partners. On March 2, the university will have the opportunity to acknowledge its role in the Peace Corps’ long-standing success during the organization’s week-long 60th-anniversary celebration.

The Peace Corps will host “60 Years of Service: Elon University,” a virtual panel discussion featuring returned Peace Corps volunteers who will talk about the organization’s global impact and their service experiences. Volunteers will highlight the benefits of Peace Corps service and share the challenging, rewarding and inspirational moments that made their Peace Corps service memorable. The virtual event is scheduled for Tuesday, March 2, at 4 p.m.

Elon has supported numerous Peace Corps projects around the world and for a third year in a row was ranked among the top producers of Peace Corps volunteers in the nation. The Peace Corps ranked Elon No. 25 on its list of medium-sized colleges and universities in March 2020. Elon’s support of the Peace Corps extends into Elon Law, which offers two returned Peace Corps volunteers scholarships in the amount of $31,500 as part of the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program.

Josh Kaufmann ’15 during his time in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.

A catalyst for the university’s Peace Corps success has been its undergraduate Peace Corps Prep Program, led by director and Assistant Professor of English Jennifer Eidum. The program, which operates in collaboration with the Peace Corps, has prepared students for international service through academic and extracurricular opportunities since 2013.

“Elon students are high-achieving, they’re excited to get out into the world and make change,” Eidum said. “And I think this program shows them that the Peace Corps can be a good option for them.”

In the Peace Corps Prep Program, students are connected with a faculty advisor who guides them through three academic courses and 50 hours of extracurricular work that prepares them for Peace Corps service. Students who complete the program walk away with the training, hours of pertinent experience and intercultural competence necessary to be a successful Peace Corps volunteer.

The opportunity to lead the Peace Corps Prep Program has been especially meaningful to Eidum, who taught English in Ukraine as a Peace Corps volunteer in the early 2000s. Eidum’s experience is what inspired her to become a college English professor, and she hopes to pass on that passion for the Peace Corps and international service to future generations of Elon students.

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“The fact that the Peace Corps is built on this idea of service, I believe that it is sort of the best of America,” Eidum said. “So over time, it’s really become a deep part of my values and a really nice reflection of what I believe about the world and about our country.”

The Peace Corps will commemorate its 60th anniversary during “Peace Corps Week,” from Feb. 28 to March 6. With a theme of “Peace Corps through the Decades: Sixty Years, Countless Stories,” the organization has planned a number of virtual events during the week to mark the milestone. Each event will serve as an opportunity to look back at all the Peace Corps has accomplished since 1961 and all it will do in years to come.

“As the Peace Corps celebrates our 60th anniversary, I am reminded of how far we have come and what an unprecedented time we are in now. The past 60 years have truly prepared us for this historic moment. During a pandemic that has touched every corner of the globe, it’s clear that we are all in this together,” said Acting Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn. “As we look to the next 60 years, I know the Peace Corps will continue to be a community of people—all over the world—willing to do the hard work of promoting peace and friendship.”

Read more about Elon’s impact in the Peace Corps with firsthand stories from returned volunteers here.