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Peace Corps Prep Program coming in the spring

Peace Corps Representatives inform students about the organization. // Photo courtesy of Nikki Shapiro
Peace Corps Representatives inform students about the organization. // Photo courtesy of Nikki Shapiro

Starting spring quarter, Western will offer a new Peace Corps Prep Program certificate, in conjunction with courses completed for the International Studies minor.

For the third year in a row, Western has had more volunteers enter the Peace Corps than any other medium-sized school in the nation, according to the organization’s 2015 list. And now students aspiring to join the Peace Corps ranks will have the opportunity to add a new certificate to their resumes.

The minor includes courses such as Introduction to Global Studies and a thesis course. Obtaining the minor also means going abroad and completing other credits from faculty-approved departments, such as anthropology, according to the Western course catalog.

Western alumna Kendra Pittman Quiroz volunteered for two years in the Peace Corps in Peru after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in human services.

“I think the experience of a quarter abroad is definitely an asset to a future Peace Corps volunteer. I studied abroad in Ecuador and I know it definitely helped me know more of what to expect when I moved to Peru,” Pittman Quiroz said in an email.

Beyond going abroad, Western has on-campus resources for prospective Peace Corps volunteers as well.

Jill MacIntyre Witt, Western’s Peace Corps campus representative, helps students learn about different opportunities within the Peace Corps and answers questions about the application process.

Earning the certificate through the program is not required to apply for the Peace Corps, MacIntyre Witt said.

“The certificate is just an extra offering that Western has for students that would like some extra preparation for going overseas,” she said.

Last year, Western alumni comprised 47 of the Peace Corps’ volunteers, according to the organization’s national list. These volunteers spend up to 27 months in foreign countries around the world.

In July 2014, the Peace Corps announced “historic changes” to the application process, including the ability for applicants to choose the programs and countries they want to apply for, according to the organization’s website.

“It’s really important for people to know they now apply for what job they want to do and what country,” MacIntyre Witt said. “It’s completely different than it used to be.”

Junior sociology major Alexandra Rhodes has been interested in joining the Peace Corps since her freshman year at Western.

“I’ve always been interested in traveling and learning about being abroad in other countries,” Rhodes said. “I thought it was a cool after-college opportunity to learn about that kind of thing.”

Rhodes has yet to choose a minor, but has thought about going the international studies route, she said.

The six job sectors the Peace Corps offers include health, education, community economic development, agriculture, environment, and youth in development, according to the Peace Corps website.

The Peace Corps’ mission is to train men and women to travel to interested countries and promote a better understanding between Peace Corps representatives and the people living in those countries, according to the Peace Corps Basics on Western’s Career Services Center website.

Each job sector offers many different possibilities for Peace Corps volunteers, Pittman Quiroz said.

“I did projects that involved health, sexual education, starting a library and after school program, vocational training and future planning, self esteem improvement, a youth running club, and so much more,” she said. “For the most part in the Youth Development Program, as long as your project is geared toward benefiting youth in some way, you can do anything you want.”
MacIntyre Witt recommended a variety of resources for students interested in joining the Peace Corps, including quarterly meetings and application workshops to help students fill out applications and resumes, she said.
Vanessa Leja, a returning member of the Peace Corps who just ended her two year stay in South Africa, will be speaking at the next meeting on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. in Communications Facility 110. Leja will reflect on her experience in the Peace Corps as well as the resources offered at Western.

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