Peace Corps Prep

About

Peace Corps Prep is a program for Saint Michael’s students who are interested in serving as Peace Corps volunteers after graduating.  Since its founding in 1961, the Peace Corps has attracted students with liberal education backgrounds and strong leadership skills who wish to make a difference in the lives of other people overseas, while increasing their appreciation of the world beyond the United States.  In 2016 the Peace Corps recognized Saint Michael’s as one of the top volunteer-producing colleges and universities in the country, and it is one of a growing number of colleges to offer a Peace Corps Prep program.

The Peace Corps Prep curriculum allows students flexibility in pursuing academic and co-curricular experiences common to a Saint Michael’s undergraduate education.  Students majoring in most disciplines are able to participate in the program, and many of the co-curricular opportunities available to students at Saint Michael’s provide excellent preparation for the Peace Corps.  The Peace Corps Prep courses and activities are designed to span a student’s entire college career, so the earlier a student can apply, the easier it will be to design a workable program.

For specifics on course choices, students should consult with the College Peace Corps Prep coordinator Dan Evans and their major advisor.

The Peace Corps Prep program will prepare you for international development fieldwork and potential Peace Corps service. To accomplish this, you’ll build four core competencies through interrelated coursework, hands-on experience, and professional development support.

Training and Experience in a Peace Corps Work Sector

Leveraging concrete knowledge and skills is central to on-the-ground international development work. Through this PC Prep program, you will begin to build a professional specialty, which should serve your career well whether or not you become a Peace Corps volunteer. The four work sectors are

  • Education
  • Health and Nutrition
  • Environmental Studies and Sciences
  • Business Entrepreneurship

Foreign Language Skills

Working across cultures often entails verbal and nonverbal languages distinct from your own. Building foreign language skills is thus a second key component of the PC Prep curriculum.

Intercultural Competence

Engaging thoughtfully and fluidly across cultures begins with one’s own self-awareness. With this learning objective, you will deepen your cultural agility through a mix of three introspective courses in which you learn about others while reflecting upon your own self in relation to others. The goal is for you to build your capacity to shift perspective and behavior around relevant cultural differences.

Professional and Leadership Development

International development is a highly professional sector. It is difficult to break into and demands great initiative and leadership to advance professionally within the field. PC Prep requires work in three specific areas that will strengthen your candidacy for the Peace Corps (or any other professional endeavor):

  • Résumé development
  • Interview skills development
  • Leadership experience

Foreign Language Study

Peace Corps Prep participants must be prepared to interact professionally and in service capacities in a foreign language.  Students at Saint Michael’s therefore are encouraged to achieve the equivalent of at least the 206 course level or higher in a foreign language.

Global Awareness/International Understanding

At Saint Michael’s College, students interested in the Peace Corps Prep program should seek to better understand the world—especially the developing world—and deepen their cultural agility and ability to reflect upon their own selves in relation to others.  As a baseline to build intercultural competence, students should enroll in AL250 Intercultural Communication, a course which explores the challenges of becoming interculturally competent in a global world.  In addition, ideally towards the end of their having completed the Peace Corps Prep curriculum at Saint Michael’s, students will enroll in Peace Corps Orientation Seminar, a 1-credit course that is offered at Saint Michael’s to provide a more systematic way to help prospective Peace Corps volunteers prepare for the challenges of their upcoming experience.

In addition, in consultation with the Peace Corps Prep coordinator, students should select two more courses that support global awareness and intercultural understanding.

Examples of such courses currently offered in the Saint Michael’s curriculum include

  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Anthropology of Refugees
  • Cross-Cultural Management
  • International Economics
  • Foundations of Global Studies
  • International Relations
  • Religious studies courses
  • History courses

Saint Michael’s College Peace Corps Primary Service Sector Courses

The Peace Corps seeks participants who have begun to acquire more concrete sector-specific skills central to development work.  Students at Saint Michael’s should take at least three courses to enhance their ability to work ideally in one of the following sectors:

  • Education
  • Health and  Nutrition
  • Environmental Studies and Sciences
  • Business Entrepreneurship

In addition to course work in a primary service sector, the Peace Corps Prep student is required to participate in at least 50 hours of hands-on experience in the service sector of their choice.

Leadership, and Community Engagement at Saint Michael’s

International development is a highly professional sector.  It is difficult to break into and demands great initiative and leadership to advance professionally within the field.  PC Prep requires three specific activities that will strengthen your candidacy for the Peace Corps (or any other professional endeavor):

  • Have your résumé critiqued by the Career Education and Alumni Engagement Center.
  • Attend a workshop or class on interview skills at the Career Education and Alumni Engagement Center.
  • Develop at least one significant leadership experience and be prepared to discuss it thoughtfully.  Examples include organizing a campus event, leading a work or volunteer project, serving on the executive board of a student organization, or studying abroad for a semester.

Peace Corps Prep students will be able to collaborate with students in the Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows program offered in the Applied Linguistics Department at Saint Michael’s College.  This master’s degree program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages is offered to Peace Corps volunteers who have completed service in the English language teaching field.  Prep students will benefit from direct interaction with these returned PCVs to gain real insight into the Peace Corps experience.

Fluency in foreign languages, international experience, and cross-cultural understanding are highly sought-after assets in today’s global economy. The Peace Corps provides you with up to three months of intensive training before service begins and offers continued training throughout your service.  Volunteers returning from abroad have used their Peace Corps experience as the foundation for successful careers in a variety of fields, from government to business to education.

When volunteers return to the United States, the Peace Corps provides transition assistance related to jobs and education.