Wittenberg University was one of the significant pieces to the puzzle of John F. Kennedy’s Peace Corps plan, according to Tom Taylor, history professor at Wittenberg.
Although Kennedy’s first reference to an organization for international service was at the University of Michigan in an impromptu speech delivered on the 1960 campaign trail, Taylor said that Wittenberg was where Kennedy really elaborated upon the idea of a volunteer service organization.
On Oct. 17, 1960, Kennedy gave a speech at Wittenberg about his Proposed Code of Ethics, but inserted a paragraph at the end of the speech about a volunteer service organization (although he never used the words Peace Corps).
“It really was at Wittenberg that [Kennedy] put the idea of the Peace Corps out there to a bunch of college students,” said Taylor.
In the speech, Kennedy encouraged students to embark on a career of public service. He also added that Wittenberg was not founded and maintained for the sole purpose of an eventual economic advantage for students, but that the university had a higher purpose.
The “higher purpose” for service is stated in the “Global Citizenship” section of Wittenberg’s mission statement: “A Wittenberg education prepares students for the challenge and responsibility of global citizenship.”
Since Kennedy’s speech at Wittenberg, the university was placed 22nd nationwide among small-sized schools (those with enrollments of 5,000 or fewer undergraduates) in 2004 for number of Peace Corps volunteers.
Wittenberg senior, Courtney Craig, plans to join the Peace Corps upon graduating. Although she hopes that her final location will be in a place where she can work with youth and use her Spanish language skills, such as in the Dominican Republic, her temporary location is Swaziland.
Craig will serve for 27 months after completing the application process and a language and culture training program. Her time spent working with children while studying abroad in Chile was the main inspiration for Craig’s desire to join the Peace Corps.
“I like volunteering,” said Craig. “That experience in Chile was definitely the thing that drove me forward with this idea of being involved and joining the Peace Corps.”
Craig also said the International Studies department helped to fuel her interests.
Wittenberg offers a track specifically pertaining to the Peace Corps in the International Studies major. Although students on the Peace Corps Preparation track are not guaranteed acceptance in the Peace Corps, the track is said to benefit students interested in any form of international service.
The university further places an importance on service abroad through programs such as the Lesotho service trip, headed by history professor Scott Rosenberg. The service trip stemmed from Rosenberg’s time in Lesotho as a Peace Corps Volunteer.