The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Ranks 14th in Peace Corps Involvement

Forty-eight UNC alumni are currently part of the 7,300-member Peace Corps volunteer force, placing UNC 14th on the annual list of colleges and universities with the largest number of school alumni serving the organization.

The increasing numbers of college graduates volunteering through the Peace Corps reflects the organization's hope to boost the number of volunteers by 25 percent by this year, which marks the Peace Corps' 40th anniversary.

Ambassador Brenda Schoonover, a diplomat-in-residence at UNC, was among the first 200 members to join the Peace Corps when it began in 1961.

Considered to be a charter member of the Peace Corps for her service in the Philippines, Schoonover lauded UNC's high number of returned volunteers. "It is fabulous ... that as a diplomat-in-residence I am in such good company," she said.

Peace Corps Acting Director Charles Baquet III released the rankings Thursday from the office in Washington, D.C. He also released the list of its top small colleges and universities, those with less than 5,000 undergraduates.

Established by former President John Kennedy, the Peace Corps has sent more than 161,000 volunteers to help improve social and living conditions in 134 countries.

This year, UNC dropped in its ranking, falling four places from 10th place in 2000. Jacquelyn Gist, a career counselor at the University Career Services, said she is surprised UNC isn't higher on the list.

Gist, who comes from a family of Peace Corps volunteers, has worked with at least 20 students who have been admitted into the program. Not one of the applicants Gist has worked with has been rejected.

"The Peace Corps looks for people with travel experience, language skills and volunteer work experience," Gist said. For this reason, Gist said, "UNC students are especially appealing. They really like our students."

Gist recently worked with one UNC graduate who is now in Slovakia volunteering with a small business development firm. Another UNC alumnus is in Moldovia focusing on environmental education.

Gist said the high number of UNC graduates serving the Peace Corps also results from a strong relationship with the national office in Washington, D.C. Recruiters from the office come to campus more than once a year to encourage students to apply.

UNC graduates pursuing master's degrees also have a chance to work with the Peace Corps through the Peace Corps Masters Internationalist Program.

Coordinated by Deborah Whaley, a UNC graduate, the new program enables graduates to complete their master's degrees while working in a field related to their studies.

Although there is some controversy concerning the monitoring of research for this program, Whaley said the first UNC graduate of the program will present her thesis, developed during her service in the Peace Corps, next month.

James Hevia, history professor and chairman of the international studies curriculum, said the Peace Corps is one of many opportunities that the department discusses with its graduates. "The Peace Corps offers students opportunities to go places they would not have gone otherwise," Hevia said.

Don Lauria, professor of water resources and engineering, has worked in developing countries around the world. Although he does not recommend the Peace Corps for students preparing for professional lives of engineering practice, Lauria said the program provides graduates with experiences that will shape their lives.

"It sensitizes people to the problems of the poor and needy," Lauria said. "(Participants) will discover that people in developing countries are no different than people here. People are people the world over."

The University Editor can be reached at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Women's Tennis Victory Paper