URI first in state to offer Peace Corps Prep Program

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Also named a Top Volunteer-Producing College, University among medium-sized schools in Peace Corps national rankings

KINGSTON, R.I. – February 18, 2016 – The University of Rhode Island and the Peace Corps announced today that the University is now offering the Peace Corps Prep Program to its undergraduate students.

URI is the first college or university in Rhode Island to offer the program that prepares students to volunteer in international development programs, potentially with the Peace Corps. URI is one of only 48 universities in the country and three in New England to participate. URI has had 416 undergraduate alumni in the Peace Corps with 13 now serving overseas.

In a related announcement out of Washington this morning, the Peace Corps announced that URI ranked No. 25 among medium-sized schools on the agency’s 2016 Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities list. This is the first time since 2007 that URI has appeared on the annual list, with 13 alumni currently volunteering worldwide. URI is the only Rhode Island college or university listed in any of the Peace Corps top 25 lists in any category.
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“This is an outgrowth of our overall global agenda,” said Nancy Stricklin, assistant to the provost for Global Strategies and Academic Partnerships. “We want to create more opportunities for students to be involved in a global curriculum. This is another major step in that process. We meet all of the program’s standards for interdisciplinary academic programs, international education and experiential learning.”

The program is accepting applications now, and students may find information at Peace Corps Prep Program

“The Peace Corps Prep program is a wonderful example of the agency’s growing efforts to strengthen collaborations with schools nationwide,” said Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet.

Kathy Fidler, Peace Corps recruiter for the University of Rhode Island, said the organization has had a strong and fruitful connection to the University for decades. “URI graduates have contributed their skills to communities around the world since our program began, and many have returned to URI and to Rhode Island to share their knowledge and experience. The applicants I have worked with at URI have consistently impressed me with their motivation and professionalism.”

“The University already had key elements in place that led to this new partnership — robust study abroad and foreign language programs, winter J Term experiences in places around the globe, and a program structured around health, education, agriculture, youth development, the environment and conservation and community economic development,” said URI Professor Michael Rice, a former Peace Corps volunteer and now coordinator of the Peace Corp Prep Program at URI.

Rice was studying at the University of California, Irvine in the early 1980s when he applied to the Peace Corps. After earning his master’s in 1981, he was accepted to the training program held at URI from June to August. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, a nation to which he now brings undergraduate students for J Term classes.

“I have a very tight connection with Peace Corps,” said Rice, a member of the URI faculty in Fisheries, Animal and Veterinary Science. “It has had a massive impact not only on my career, but also on my curriculum development and research.”

Peace Corps Prep’s four central learning objectives are: training and experience in a specific work sector, foreign language skills, intercultural awareness, and professional and leadership development.

Among its benefits for participating universities are: attracting motivated, high-achieving students with a curiosity that enriches the learning environment; distinguishing the university from is peers in international education; enhancing efforts to globalize the scope of academic programs; and increasing opportunities for recruitment and fundraising.

Benefits to students who participate include: making a student’s education interdisciplinary, dynamic and engaging; providing students with a vision of how they will use their skills in the field; enhancing a student’s foreign language proficiency and intercultural competency; providing the opportunity to earn a Peace Corps Prep Certificate of Completion and increasing a student’s competitiveness when applying to be a Peace Corps volunteer, other non-governmental relief organizations or for foreign service careers.

The certificate of completion does not guarantee entry into the Peace Corps, which gets about 23,000 applications a year. There are 6,900 volunteers and trainees in the program now. Those applicants who hold a Peace Corps prep certification go into a smaller pool that generally get more attention.

Stricklin said the catalyst for the University’s application was Neil Ross, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from URI, and is a former URI staff member in what is now the Coastal Resource Center at the Graduate School of Oceanography. He said he was the first URI alumnus to serve as an international Peace Corps volunteer in 1962, and he also oversaw the training program at URI in which Rice was enrolled.

“Neil sent me information about the Peace Corps Prep Program in my role as the chair of the University’s Global Steering Committee,” Stricklin said. “I made a presentation to URI’s leadership team. And in just a matter of weeks we developed a proposal that just met the deadline for submission. And we were approved April 17, 2015.”

Ross did his Peace Corps service in the Dominican Republic and maintains close ties with the Caribbean nation, said not only will this program give URI students a leg up when applying to the Peace Corps, it formally rejuvenates a partnership between the program and URI that originated decades ago.

“This will give URI students a chance to see if this is a good fit,” Ross said. “If they decide that it’s not for me, then that’s good. For those who discover that they want to pursue a Peace Corps opportunity, it provides the cultural, economic, and language education, with guidance from URI faculty staff and alumni who have Peace Corps experience.

“The program is free, and it doesn’t cost URI anything,” said Ross the alumni volunteer for the program. “URI already has more than 70 courses on the books that can be used to complete the program, which means students can remain in their majors as well as broaden their perspectives with courses outside their majors.”

Pictured above

Peace Corps volunteer with residents of the Dominican Republic

A scene from Ethiopia

Photos courtesy of the Peace Corps.