austin and a classroom of children do the hook em sign

Celebrating 60 Years of Global Service During Peace Corps Week

  • Feb 26, 2021
  • Jenan Taha

Six decades ago, the first cohort of Peace Corps Volunteers set out on a unique international service opportunity to tackle critical challenges alongside community leaders and promote world peace. Since 1961, nearly a quarter of a million volunteers from around the U.S. have left a legacy of impact across numerous sectors in 141 nations around the world, including more than 1,800 University of Texas alumni.

In celebration of Peace Corps’ 60th anniversary, UT and institutions across the country will mark Peace Corps Week, Feb. 28 to March 6, with the theme “Peace Corps through the Decades: Sixty Years, Countless Stories.” Peace Corps will share returned volunteers’ stories and host several virtual events, including “60 Years of Service: Stories of JFK and the Peace Corps Legacy,” showcasing the benefits of Peace Corps service with a panel of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who will share their stories of how John F. Kennedy impacted their lives.

“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,” said acting Peace Corps Director Carol Spahn. “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. 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.”

Established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, Peace Corps has facilitated the development of sustainable solutions in communities around the world. Not only have volunteers contributed to their host countries, but they have also brought back with them the cross-cultural understanding central to the Peace Corps mission. 

UT is recognized as the top Peace Corps Volunteer-producing university in the Southwest, and has been named a top volunteer-producing university in the country for five consecutive years. 1,897 UT alumni have served in agriculture, business, community development, education, environment, health and information technology sectors around the world.

Jeremy Nicot (B.A. ’17) served in Senegal from 2018 to 2020 as a Community Economic Development volunteer, helping to increase economic participation among women and youth.

“I've gained a new perspective on life, a desire for self-improvement, and an appreciation for all that I have,” Nicot said. “But most of all, Peace Corps has given me a glimpse into the lives of folks that I would otherwise never have met and allowed me to forge connections with them that I will remember for the rest of my life. Despite all the difficulties you encounter, what you gain in self-reflection and friendships makes it one of the richest experiences you could possibly be exposed to.”

jeremy works with community members in senegal

UT alumna Lindsay Keeling (B.A. ‘11) served as a primary education teacher trainer in Kosovo from 2018 to 2020 and says her experience on the Forty Acres prepared her for her transformative volunteer service.

“I first heard about Peace Corps when I was a student at The University of Texas,” she said. “My time at UT broadened my horizons to other cultures, through meeting people as well as through coursework, and taught me the skills that have helped me become a successful volunteer. I feel that in a sense, UT helped lay the foundation for the cultural sensitivity that one needs to be a global citizen and serving in Peace Corps has really been a full education to the importance of this skill.”

This year doesn’t just mark an anniversary for the Peace Corps, it marks a new beginning. When the agency evacuated its global posts in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it paused operations and brought home more than 6,000 Americans who were serving in more than 60 countries. 

The agency is now recruiting and planning for a return to service, bringing an extraordinary opportunity for future Volunteers to be the start of a new chapter for all of Peace Corps. These new Volunteers will be vital to the agency’s post-pandemic success as members of a new inaugural cohort.

Students interested in Peace Corps can connect with the UT campus recruiter for virtual advising, join the UT application workshop on March 2, or attend a Peace Corps information session available virtually through Zoom. UT Austin also offers Peace Corps Prep—an intensive certificate program designed to give participants a competitive edge among the thousands of applicants and prepare them for their service abroad.

Learn more about Peace Corps.