Curiosity Propels Lifelong Learning

Peace Sullivan lives by the adage “You never stop learning.” She says she has always had a strong curiosity for learning, which led her to pursue careers in journalism as well as psychoanalysis. And now by serving as the Chairperson of the Graduate Education Advancement Board at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Sullivan supports graduate students on their own personal quests for knowledge.

Peace Sullivan

Peace Sullivan

Sullivan graduated from Carolina in 1969 with a Bachelor's degree in English. She recalls, “As an undergrad I had a very broad education and was exposed to many different theories about learning how to think. Carolina is a fabulous university and it opened my eyes to a much broader vision of what the world was like.”

After graduation, she moved to New York City to work as a journalist for the features department of the Associated Press. Sullivan said that this work experience offered her incredibly interesting and valuable opportunities. “I worked there during the late 1960s, and a lot of things were changing at the time. You had to be willing to explore and to listen, and not be afraid to ask questions. I also got to interview a lot of celebrities, such as Joanne Woodward and Robert Redford, which was exciting.”

Her journalism career also led her to freelance work in Europe and South America. However, after getting married and starting a family she decided to pursue a career that would keep her closer to home. “I had two young children, and it was not very easy to continue a career in journalism at that time. So I started to think what else I could do,and decided to get a Master of Social Work degree, which enabled me to become a psychotherapist.”

After completing a Master of Social Work degree from Fordham University, Sullivan studied at a psychoanalytic institute for four years to become a psychoanalyst. For 15 years, she worked as a psychoanalyst at a private practice in New York City. She believes that this career change was not as drastic as it seems. “I discovered that one of the qualities that the professions of journalism and psychoanalysis share is curiosity, whether it's curiosity about an individual or curiosity about the greater world.”

She says she wants to give other students the opportunity to explore their own curiosity. “More and more we need knowledge in our society, and most careers require the greater knowledge that comes with having a graduate degree as well as the skills to be able to do research your entire life.”

“I think that the best part of continuing an education is that it frees you up to know how very much there is that we don't know, so we always have a chance to learn.”

Sullivan also relates to the struggles that many graduate students face today. “Having gone to graduate school myself, I know that life can be tough for graduate students.” She says that this personal experience, as well as her daughter's current enrollment in the doctoral program in history at New York University, inspired her to support graduate education at UNC-Chapel Hill. She explains,“I think that our graduate students need all the help they can get. Because of this, I started a fund that students can use for unexpected expenses.”

She hopes that others will continue to support graduate education so that many more students can benefit from the knowledge and skills that are acquired while pursuing an advanced degree. She adds, “I think that the best part of continuing an education is that it frees you up to know how very much there is that we don't know, so we always have a chance to learn.”

♦ Enelda Butler