Peace Corps Prep Program Helps Students Fulfill Their Global Ambitions
When senior Danielle Edmonds heard that The University of Texas at Dallas would be launching a Peace Corps Prep Program, she checked out the website and browsed volunteer opportunities around the globe. She fell in love with the idea of working with youths in Peru.
Siva Paladugu (left) and Danielle Edmonds joined the Peace Corps Prep Program at UT Dallas.
Edmonds decided to sign up for the University’s program, which begins this spring. She also met an early deadline to apply for a Peace Corps position and took a recruiter’s advice to submit an open application, saying she’d be willing to serve wherever most needed.
Edmonds, who is expected to graduate in May with an international political economy degree from the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, has now been selected as a Peace Corps volunteer and will head to the Dominican Republic in August as a Spanish literacy promoter.
“It’s not quite what I’d planned, but it may be even better,” she said. “I’ll be making sure elementary children are reading at grade level. It’s such a vital skill to have. Everything is built on that.”
Open to All Undergraduates
The prep program is designed to better equip students like Edmonds to serve as volunteers. However, it is not limited to students interested in the Peace Corps. Any undergraduate who is interested in an international career can apply, said Leticia Zamarripa, interim senior director of the University’s International Center.
“The Peace Corps Prep Program will help students to develop specific skills and experience to be better prepared for the intercultural immersion experience serving as Peace Corps volunteers or to work in any other global setting,” Zamarripa said.
Peace Corps Prep Program
The program is open to undergraduates from any major in good standing. Upcoming information sessions will be held:
- Monday, Feb. 12, 2-3 p.m.
- Wednesday, Feb. 21, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Location: SSB 3.107
About 22 undergraduates make up the University’s first cohort as UT Dallas joins 95 other U.S. universities that offer the comprehensive, curriculum-based program.
Those who want to serve with the Peace Corps are not guaranteed a position, but the prep program will allow them to become a more competitive candidate.
Each participant will complete coursework and volunteer service to earn a certificate by graduation. In Edmonds’ case, she will get credit for courses and volunteer work already completed and finish final requirements during the spring semester.
Peace Corps volunteers serve a number of ways in a two-year commitment. Some examples include:
- Teaching English, math and science
- Promoting nutrition, maternal and child health
- Promoting basic hygiene and water sanitation
- Promoting sustainable use of natural resources
- Helping small-scale farmers and families increase food security and production
- Promoting active citizenship for youths
- Working with banks, nongovernmental organizations (NGO) and municipalities to encourage economic opportunities.
Each participant in the prep program must acquire core competencies in four areas before graduation: training and work experience, professional and leadership development, intercultural competence and foreign language skills.
Students begin by identifying a specific area in which they want to strengthen their skills, based on where they want to go and what they want to do. These include education, health, environment, agriculture, youth development and community economic development.
World of Opportunity
Siva Paladugu, a biology sophomore in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, is focusing on the health sector because he hopes to become a doctor one day, just like his parents.
“Whether students want to work for the State Department, the Peace Corps, an NGO or a multinational corporation, this is a way for students to develop their leadership skills while gaining the intercultural competence necessary to be successful in a globally oriented career.”
Paladugu has participated in annual medical trips to Honduras, where he distributed medication and assisted doctors during surgeries. Those experiences prompted him to consider serving in the Peace Corps.
“I found it to be a very, very gratifying experience. It made me want to follow in my parents’ footsteps,” Paladugu said. “Diving into the prep program will better prepare me to help the patients in Honduras.”
Dr. Jennifer Holmes, professor and head of the political science, public policy and political economy programs, helped write the prep program proposal for UT Dallas. She believes the program will be invaluable for those pursuing a global career.
“This new program is an exciting way for students to gain an external credential to help them in their internationally oriented careers,” Holmes said. “Whether students want to work for the State Department, the Peace Corps, an NGO or a multinational corporation, this is a way for students to develop their leadership skills while gaining the intercultural competence necessary to be successful in a globally oriented career.”
For Edmonds, the opportunity appealed to her at the right time.
“I’m a firm believer in trying things, and I’m at the age I can do this,” she said. “I would like to have a family one day, and a job. This is a unique time to apply.”
The prep program is open to undergraduate students of all majors who are in good standing. The deadline to apply for the fall 2018 cohort is March 30.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].