Section: News

College launches prep program for Peace Corps

Cayla Anderson ’18 hopes to join the Corps. Photo by Shane Canfield.

On Oct. 16, the College launched the Peace Corps Prep program, an academic track intended to help students prepare for Peace Corps and other careers in international development.

The program is a recognition of Kenyon students’ significant levels of participation in the Peace Corps: The Corps named Kenyon as a top producer of volunteers in 2014, ranking among the top percentile of small colleges and universities with under 5,000 students.

“The program acknowledges what’s already in place,” said Stephen Volz, associate professor of history and faculty advisor of the Peace Corps Prep program. “We formalized the preparation for Peace Corps … It makes explicit what is the best way to prepare.”

The program requires students to complete three intercultural competency courses and a foreign language course relevant to the region they are interested in. They must also take three courses, and complete at least 50 hours of volunteer or work experience, related to one of the six sectors of the Peace Corps. These sectors are agriculture, education, community economic development, health, environment and youth in development.

Chief Business Officer Mark Kohlman brought up the idea of creating a Peace Corps Prep program in the fall of 2015. Volz then wrote the application for the program with Irene Lopez, associate professor of psychology. Marne Ausec, director of the Center for Global Engagement and co-director of the Peace Corps Prep program, worked out the program’s administrative details. The Peace Corps accepted the application and the College announced the launch of the Peace Corps Prep program in the spring of 2016, although the requirements and website were not finalized. It officially launched on Oct. 16.

The program is structured to complement opportunities Kenyon already offers. According to Ausec, it “is a good alignment of what we offer in terms of courses, the kinds of opportunities we have within the Office for Community Partnerships and the 2020 plan, which speaks to high impact experiences.”

Students will receive a signed certificate of completion from the Peace Corps after finishing the program, but the program does not guarantee entry into the Corps. Instead, the experience will prepare them to be competitive candidates for acceptance.

Cayla Anderson ’18 will be the first student to graduate from the Peace Corps Prep program. She began preparing for the Peace Corps application as a first year, prior to the establishment of the Peace Corps Prep program, and enrolled in the program in the fall of 2016. 

“There was no program before, so I followed my own,” Anderson said.

Anderson credits her international studies and economics double major as fulfilling requirements for the Peace Corps with relative ease. She intends to work in the community economic development sector of the Peace Corps, which fits well with her academic studies. “It’s a practical application of everything I’ve learned at Kenyon,” Anderson said.

She is in the process of completing her application for the Peace Corps and is working on her statement of purpose.

Kenyon’s program is not aimed only at prospective Peace Corps volunteers. “The skills that the Peace Corps Prep program builds will strengthen students for any other NGOs, international aid and development agencies, and so forth,” Volz said. The program fosters skills in intercultural understanding and ties academics with service, which is valuable not only to the Peace Corps but to many other prospective employers.

The program will hold informational sessions at the beginning of each semester for interested students. Students of all majors can apply to join at any point in their four years, although they must attend the informational sessions first.

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