2011 marks 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the executive order that created the Peace Corps. With 200,000 Americans having volunteered through the agency since its founding, the Peace Corps has emerged as one of the nation’s most beloved institutions, symbolizing our country’s best intentions to help those in need and to better understand people from across the globe.
UCLA played a crucial role in the formative days of the Peace Corps. Forty-eight trainees bound for Nigeria arrived on campus in the summer of 1961, just months after the Peace Corps was established. From 1961 to 1969, more than 2,000 future volunteers trained on campus and benefited from the knowledge and insights provided by UCLA’s internationally recognized scholars in African and Latin American studies. By the time the Peace Corps began conducting training overseas, UCLA had trained approximately 10 percent of all departing volunteers, possibly more than any other campus in the nation.
While UCLA played a key role in training these volunteers, providing subject matter experts and advising Peace Corps leadership in the early days of the Peace Corps its contribution did not end when overseas training began. To date, more than 1,800 UCLA graduates have served in the Peace Corps, making UCLA the No. 8 producer of Peace Corps volunteers among U.S. colleges and universities.
With 92 alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps, UCLA and the Peace Corps share a dedication to creating a new generation of globally competent and service-minded individuals.