New program eases students into Peace Corps

By: Madison Spratto / NM News Port 

University of New Mexico students can now get a step ahead when applying to volunteer for the Peace Corps through the Peace Corps Preparation Program

The Peace Corps offers service opportunities that immerse volunteers within a community abroad to work with local leaders on environmental, economic, agricultural, educational, health or youth development projects. 

Students must complete three required courses and 50 hours of volunteer work, then the Peace Corps will award a certificate they can attach to their application. The three courses focus on intercultural competence, according to Todd Karr, director of the Education Abroad program. He works with the prep program students.

There are a number of different courses across several disciplines, which Karr said makes it easy for students to incorporate into their degree program. 

Language requirements depend on where students want to be placed, and the other three credits needed can come from a variety of different departments. Karr said the list of classes approved is continually evolving, adding that some students may have already completed the program without even knowing. 

Although the program was finalized this year, the idea started with the former UNM Education Abroad Advisor Emily Mosby when the Peace Corps recognized UNM as a place where students are known for their service. 

While Karr has not been a Peace Corps volunteer, his time studying and working abroad acts as a sentiment to why this program is important. 

“Travel, in any capacity, broadens your world perspective and your appreciation for those that you share this world with,” he said. “The opportunity to study and/or work abroad is unlike any other experience that an individual can have.” 

Mary Phibbs, the Study Abroad Advisor, said the program allows students to earn a certificate that will open many doors for them. 

“UNM students have a strong culture of community engagement and the Peace Corps prep certificate program is important to the UNM community by offering those who wish to volunteer a pathway to their post-graduation goals,” she said. 

From 2013 to 2016 the Peace Corps ranked UNM as the third top volunteer-producing Hispanic-serving institution, having 27 alumni serving in 2016.

Stephen Bishop, the prep program coordinator, said students can gain better intercultural and leadership skills through the program, as well as an understanding and appreciation of global connections. 

“The PCPP certificate is a near guarantee of acceptance into a position related to one’s training and interests,” he said. 

Karr said the placement for the Peace Corps is incredibly competitive, but by completing the program any student will have an advantage when applying. 

Karr recommends students who are interested to reach out to Maria Goodfellow, a recruiter for the Peace Corps. He said Goodfellow fequents campus and enjoys meeting with students interested and connecting them to alumni. 

Madison Spratto is a reporter for the NM News Port. She can be reached on Twitter @Madi_Spratto or at nmnewsport@gmail.com