New MU program to help students prepare for Peace Corps

Monday, September 23, 2013 | 5:21 p.m. CDT; updated 10:16 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 23, 2013

COLUMBIA — MU will launch a new program to prepare students for Peace Corps service.

Students taking part in the Peace Corps Prep program, which will be part of the Office of Service-Learning, will earn a minor in public service and a multicultural certificate.

The program won't guarantee admission to the Peace Corps, but it will make students more competitive applicants, said Michael Burden, the project coordinator at the Office of Service-Learning, who completed his service in Mongolia.

"We believe we can produce really strong candidates for Peace Corps service,"  Burden said. "They'll have had service experience already, and they will have been thinking critically about who they are and why they want to join the Peace Corps."

The program will include a course called Global Service: The Peace Corps Experience, which will teach students about the Peace Corps and give them volunteer experience around Columbia. Students will complete a week-long service trip to another country as part of the class.

Burden described the goals of the class as "having an engaging dialogue of the challenges and realities of serving globally, discussing people's motivations and really trying to equip and prepare them for those challenges."

Columbia, which is home to more than 200 former Peace Corps volunteers, is a "no brainer" location for a Peace Corps Prep program, said Donald Spiers, an MU animal science professor. Spiers, who served in the Peace Corps in Venezuela in the '70s, helped bring the program to MU.

The Peace Corps already has a presence on campus, including a recruiter and a Peace Corps Fellows graduate school program. Seven other colleges across the nation also have their own Peace Corps Prep program, but MU will be the largest institution involved. 

Anne-Marie Foley, director at the Office of Service-Learning, stressed that students from a variety of academic backgrounds could get involved in Peace Corps Prep.

"We are looking for any student, anywhere campuswide, who's interested in achieving the Peace Corps someday," Foley said. "And that's students from all walks of academic life."

A formal ceremony inaugurating the program will be held Wednesday in the Reynolds Alumni Center. MU Chancellor Brady Deaton, who is a former volunteer, and Peace Corps Associate Director Helen Lowman will solidify the partnership by signing an official Peace Corps document.

Supervising editor is Richard Webner.

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