Peace Corps Prep is a Western program run in conjunction with the international service-oriented Peace Corps. It focuses on specialization in one of the corps’ six sectors: education, health, environment, agriculture, youth in development, or community economic development, in addition to developing foreign language skills, intercultural competence, professionalism and leadership through selected coursework and service projects. Beyond producing the highest quality volunteers possible, the program also shows promise in fostering cultural awareness and community service around campus and the Gunnison Valley.
“The more well-rounded students are in their understanding of different cultures, the stronger Western becomes,” said former Peace Corps volunteer and current Master in Environmental Management student Chris Nutgrass, who is serving as Western’s Peace Corps Prep Coordinator.
Dozens of institutions nationwide have already partnered with Peace Corps to offer a similar preparatory program. Western’s secluded mountain location and student demographic gives it distinct advantages above other programs.
“[Western students] are very adventurous and outdoorsy … but also a little bit quirky and zany,” Nutgrass said. “This combination of qualities is perfect for Peace Corps service because they aren’t afraid to push their limits.”
Even though earning a Peace Corps Prep certificate only requires checking off a series of boxes proving completion of certain courses and service projects, program leaders are determined to make it much more than this.
“We hope students engage in their courses and projects, develop leadership from them and help spread their knowledge and awareness around campus,” Nutgrass said. “We want to emphasize the program, not the certificate.”
Nutgrass is confident that Western can become the top school of its size in sending volunteers abroad and is excited to see new cultures and opportunities highlighted on campus through the students in the program.
Peace Corps Prep is based out of the LEAD office in the University Center and is open to all students regardless of their intent to serve after graduation.
Additional opportunities in connection with the Peace Corps include Coverdell Fellowships offered to support returned Peace Corps volunteers enrolled in Western’s MEM program.
Learn more at: http://www.western.edu/coverdell-fellowship-eligibility
Story by Peter Noon.