Peace Corps Prep Program Unveiled

Western brings new program for service-minded students

Bethany Eveleth / Staff Writer

Western students at Peace Corps launch events. Photo by Bethany Eveleth.
Western students at Peace Corps launch events. Photo by Bethany Eveleth.

To better prepare students for service of the workforce, Western collaborated with the Peace Corps to bring their preparatory program to the university. The program was officially launched on Wednesday, Sept. 14. Key figures of the program gathered to share their experiences with the Peace Corps and answer interested students’ questions.

Christopher Nutgrass, a Master’s in Environmental Management (MEM) Program, who served in Guinea, West Africa, introduced the program briefly as a panel of volunteers arranged themselves. The discussion panel covered everything from life as a Peace Corps volunteer, to loan deferment for volunteers.

“I am so excited for this program [to come to] Western! So many of our students are adventurous, curious, daring, and have leadership potential,” said Amanda Campbell, a junior at the university. “The Peace Corps Prep will fit in perfectly at Western.”

Completion of the program not only makes students more competitive in the Peace Corps application process, but also increases their marketability in any job sector.

“This program builds professionalism and leadership development,” Nutgrass said. “The program itself exposes you to some different opportunities, classes that you might not have taken, studies that you would not have studied, and opportunities that you would not normally have.”

There are six potential sectors in which applicants can apply. Those sectors are: education, public health, environment, agriculture, youth development, and community economic development. Once students pick their area of interest there are particular classes they must take that include foreign language courses and intercultural development, work as well as volunteer experience, and development of leadership abilities and professionalism.

Nutgrass says that students are able to fulfill these requirements retroactively, which means that juniors are not out of the running to fulfill the necessary requirements. Students who want more information are encouraged to explore Western’s Peace Corps Prep web page.

“Once the program has been completed, [the student] receives a certificate from Western and from the Peace Corps,” said Nutgrass. “Which makes them more likely to be accepted to the program.”

Completion of the prep program does not guarantee acceptance to the Peace Corps, but does make applicants more competitive. It is also important for students to know that, by participating in the prep program, they are not obligated to apply for service in the Peace Corps upon graduation.

Richard and Linda Barrows, a couple who served in the Peace Corps in the late 1960s, came to campus for the event. Mr. Barrows briefly talked about his service, and Mrs. Barrows was a part of the discussion panel.

“[The Peace Corps] is a place to go if you want to find out who you are,” Mrs. Barrows said. “You learn a tremendous amount about your own self, capabilities, limits, and capacity.”

The Peace Corps has volunteers in more than 60 countries around the world. Volunteers serve for two years in their assigned country, as well as go through a rigorous three month training period.

The prep program is still in the beginning stages, and will continue to develop and evolve. Nutgrass said that an abundance of applicants have made the Peace Corps into a very competitive program because students recognize the value it provides when entering the job market.

On a positive end note to the launch Campbell said, “The Peace Corps Prep will make us all more globally aware, better leaders, and will help us get out and make this world a better place. I can’t wait to see what happens!”