School for International Training (SIT) | Trainer of first PCVs

Peace Corps history

SIT, World Learning and the Peace Corps honored their shared history with a commemorative Marker Dedication on Aug. 13, 2022.


Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2024, School for International Training (SIT) is kicking off a series of events spotlighting the institution’s unique history and its dynamic future as a 21st-century global university.

As part of this series, SIT will hold a half-day event on the Brattleboro campus featuring special guest former Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and his wife, Marcelle Leah.

SIT was officially established in 1964, 32 years after the launch of World Learning’s foundational youth exchange program, The Experiment in International Living.

When President John F. Kennedy tapped program alumnus Sargent Shriver to become the inaugural director of the Peace Corps, Shriver turned to the Experiment to train some of the first Peace Corps volunteers. Out of that activity, SIT was born.




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  • a terrific institution—the Experiment in International Living/SIT. I had the privilege of training Peace
    Corps group India 29 there in the summer of 1966. Terrific EIL staff including Training Director Anne Janeway, Medical Doctor john (the Mad Greek) Houpis etc. Our trainees had an evening session with J. Kenneth Galbraith who lived nearby. a great privilege. All the EIL staff were dynamic peiople exxuberant and inspiring about international development careers.

  • Ours was one of the first groups that received training at the Experiment in International Living, arriving there in October 1962. We were indeed a mixed bag of some 35 aspiring volunteers scheduled to help establish cooperatives in the Dominican Republic. Included in our number were two middle-aged married couples, a retired senior citizen, a couple of lawyers and CPAs, a large group of recent business school graduates, and last, but far from least, the first blind Peace Corps volunteer, a charming young lady from Texas destined to work in Santo Domingo’s school for the blind. Our training schedule consisted of Spanish language classes, talks by university professors on Latin American and Dominican history and politics, as well as orientation on the history and organization of cooperative entities provided by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) that included visits to, and meetings with, local credit unions and their officers. Our stay at Sandanona (as the Experiment’s home is known) ended two months later.

    We were sent home for the holidays, but reconvened just after New Year’s at Idlewild Airport (as JFK was formerly known) for a flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico and onward to Camp Crozier, located in the hill country south of Arecibo. There our training continued as before, but was supplemented with physical stress training developed by the British, known as ‘Outward Bound,’ that was designed to help us cope with unexpected and unusual obstacles that could later hamper our program objectives. While we found this training challenging and for the most part enjoyable, we had doubts about its relevance to our cooperative development objectives. After arriving in the Dominican Republic in February, however, we were soon met with our first surprise when we were taken to the government office for cooperative development only to find no staff there and only one chair with a phone sitting on it, indicating that cooperative development and the support and guidance that office was supposed to provide us had yet to be organized. (Three decades of the Trujillo dictatorship had ended less than two years previously and the first newly elected democratic government had only recently taken office.) That surprising disappointment notwithstanding, we were quickly taken to our individually assigned towns around the country and essentially left to our own devices. But that’s a story for another time and place.

  • Adding historical context :
    In the 1930s, Shriver lived in Europe three summers with The Experiment — group member in 1934, Assistant Leader in 1936, and Leader in 1939; his enthusiastic reports led Kennedy to task him to launch the Peace Corps. To show results fast by training and fielding teams in eight countries in 1961, the Peace Corps contracted for help from experienced universities and private voluntary agencies (termed also non-government organizations, NGOs). The Experiment’s Board of Trustees released its President, Gordon Boyce, to serve six months on the Peace Corps staff to design its policies and relationships with NGOs.
    In the 1950s, I first became an enthusiastic Experimenter and team leader, and later traveled 18 months throughout India and Pakistan studying their rural development programs. Shriver approved me in 1961 to lead the first team of Volunteers in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh); we were the first team sent to Asia’s mainland (Philippines 1 had arrived two weeks earlier). In July 1963, Evaluation Chief Charles Peters described us as “One of the great Peace Corps groups . . . Not one quitter when most of them had every excuse to quit” (cited by Gerald T. Rice, The Bold Experiment: JFK’s Peace Corps, University of Notre Dame Press, 1985, p. 163).
    During 1961-75, The Experiment trained over 2,000 Volunteers in Vermont and managed Peace Corps teams in East Pakistan, Brazil, and West Africa. Our Vice President, Dr. John A. Wallace, anticipated that young Volunteers would need help in returning home from first jobs and qualifying for professional careers. Jack’s planning team, including me, decided in 1964 that our new School for International Training (SIT) should offer two master’s degrees — Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and managing intercultural NGOs.
    A current example of those we sought to serve is Abby Maxman. Upon graduating from Colorado College, 1988, “her experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho, a landlocked country surrounded by South Africa, became the . . . invaluable launching pad for the rest of her life.” After earning SIT’s Masters in Intercultural Management, 1992, and 25 years in mangerial roles with US, UN, and European agencies and CARE, she became President in 2017 of Oxfam America. She now serves also as Board Chair of InterAction, the research and lobbying alliance in Washington of over 180 international global development NGOs.
    Today, our SIT Graduate Institute teaches programs in Brattleboro, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.; its newest awards the Doctorate in Global Education (EdD). For undergraduates, SIT Study Abroad offers more than 80 accredited field-based semester and summer study programs in more than 40 countries, including the International Honors Program in multiple locations.
    Today, alumni of The Experiment and SIT total over 130,000. Two received the Nobel Peace Prize. Jody Williams, SIT Graduate Institute, 1976, was honored in 1997 for her work to clear and ban anti-personnel landmines. Wangari Maathai, a former Trustee, was honored in 2004 for founding and coordinating 1977-2002 the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and other African countries.

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