Penn State alumnae accept Peace Corps assignment

Two Penn State alumnae have accepted positions as English education volunteers in the first Peace Corps group traveling to Kosovo, and they depart June 6 for work in the Peace Corps’ 140th country of service and its first entry into a new country since 2007.

Vera Greene, who completed bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science in 2013, and Lauren Matakas, who earned her bachelor’s degree in English in May, were accepted as two of the 25 volunteers in the inaugural group to the eastern European country.

“Pioneering a new program takes a lot of patience and acceptance to change,” said Greene, whose parents met in the Peace Corps. “I’m excited to help forge this new trail with my fellow volunteers.”

Matakas said it was an honor and privilege to be part of the first team entering Kosovo. She understands the assignment will require adaptation and hard work. “I think the most challenging part of this job will be learning and accurately employing the language to the extent needed to be successful,” she said. “I’d like to gain full fluency, but Albanian is unlike anything I’ve ever studied before, so I may need to adjust my expectations.”

While at Penn State, Greene was a reporter and editor at The Daily Collegian. She also was a member of an international reporting class in the College of Communications that traveled to China and she completed an internship at China Daily in Beijing. Matakas served as the director of community relations for TEDxPSU, Phi Mu-Beta Mu sisterhood development chair and the Out of the Darkness community walk captain.

Both consider Penn State instrumental in their decision to serve in the Peace Corps.

“I was a transfer student coming from a university that didn’t quite fit my world view nor my idea of what a home should feel like. Upon visiting friends at Penn State, I realized that what I actually wanted was a community,” Matakas, from Downingtown, Pa., said.  “Penn State is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced, mostly because of the way tens of thousands of students are able to band together and make things happen. Penn State gave me a home when I didn’t think I would find one; I will continue to live my life in a way that honors that gift.”

“Penn State and the students I met there guided me in the direction of the Peace Corps,” said Greene, who grew up in Nashua, N.H. “The atmosphere there is an example of how dedicated individuals can change the world. I came into my own during college and am forever in debt to my university for everything it has provided me.”

Penn State ranks 18th among large schools whose alumni commit to the Peace Corps with 42 undergraduate alumni volunteering worldwide. Since the first days of the Peace Corps, 1,013 Penn State alumni have traveled abroad to serve others.

“When I applied, I had said I wanted ‘greatest need.’ Receiving an invite to Kosovo was absolutely incredible,” Greene said. “It’s the second youngest country in the world (only six years old), with a sometimes tumultuous past. I hope to go into international relations later on, so places like this fascinate me. It’s amazing to see how a nation and its people unite throughout history, grow and take to the global stage.”

Last Updated September 22, 2014