New Peace Corps Prep program prepares students to be global change makers

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s new Peace Corps Prep program will combine coursework and experiential learning to build competencies for undergraduate students. © Peace Corps
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s new Peace Corps Prep program will combine coursework and experiential learning to build competencies for undergraduate students. © Peace Corps

By Mia Azizah | Office of Global Strategies

This fall, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln was one of 11 new institutions partnering with the Peace Corps on an undergraduate program that integrates coursework and experiential learning to prepare students for international development fieldwork after graduation.

The Peace Corps Prep program combines targeted coursework with hands-on experience to build the competencies needed for students to be Peace Corps volunteers or other intercultural fieldworkers. Upon successful completion, students will receive a special certificate from the Peace Corps.

“Today’s students understand the immense challenges of our era and are energetic advocates for change,” Peace Corps Acting Director Carol Spahn said. “Through the Peace Corps Prep program at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, students can develop the transferable skills necessary to influence change, advance global equity and be an effective Peace Corps volunteer.”

Peace Corps works with more than 150 partner institutions nationwide to deliver programming that underscores a commitment to global citizenship, intercultural competencies and a sense of service among students. Despite the global evacuation of all Peace Corps volunteers in March 2020 due to COVID-19, more than 700 undergraduate students completed the Peace Corps Prep program in the 2020–21 academic year.

“Peace Corps Prep is an opportunity for undergraduate students to develop competencies that will fortify their aspirations to serve abroad,” said La’Teashia Sykes, Peace Corps director of University Programs. “Congratulations to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on joining the Peace Corps family. We are thrilled to work together to spark students’ interest in Peace Corps service.”

During the kickoff on Sept. 28, Peace Corps staff and returned volunteers — including Husker alumni and staff — spoke about the impact of Peace Corps service. Josh Davis, associate vice chancellor for global affairs, also gave remarks about the value of the program to prepare students as “future and world ready,” as outlined in the Forward Together global strategy.

“This new partnership overlays the core competencies emphasized through Peace Corps with the existing courses and global opportunities at UNL to position our students and university as ready to be change makers,” Davis said.

The interdisciplinary program is housed in Nebraska’s Education Abroad Office, with the School of Global Integrative Studies serving as the academic partner. Rebecca Baskerville is the Peace Corps Prep program institutional coordinator. Beginning Aug. 1, Baskerville joined the University Honors Program as the associate director of experiential and global learning but remains part of the Education Abroad staff. As a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Morocco from 2008 to 2010, she is excited to work with students in this capacity.

“The Peace Corps Prep program closely aligns with several N2025 goals around experiential learning, diversity and inclusion, and addressing global grand challenges,” Baskerville said. “Having this program will also help raise awareness on campus of Peace Corps service as a fulfilling, impactful post-graduation experience.”

All undergraduates in good standing with at least two semesters remaining are eligible to participate. In addition to completing coursework related to the six sectors of Peace Corps service, students will have access to special events throughout the semester, be mentored by local returned volunteers, complete the Intercultural Development Inventory assessment and volunteer together. Participants may also receive up to a $5,000 scholarship to study or intern abroad in select locations related to the Peace Corps.

While students are encouraged to apply for Peace Corps service after completing the program, they are not obligated to serve nor guaranteed acceptance. International students may also participate in the Peace Corps Prep program, but candidates serving in the Peace Corps must be U.S. citizens.

Interested students can apply and learn more about the program on the Education Abroad website.

Peace Corps volunteers develop sustainable solutions to address challenges in education, health, community economic development, agriculture, the environment and youth development. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 240,000 Americans of all ages have served in 142 countries worldwide.

This article was originally published on Nebraska Today.