Ursinus has joined 13 other colleges nationwide designated to offer students a Peace Corps Preparatory program in which they gain an educational component helpful for Peace Corps and international service.
The program would build upon offerings such as longstanding participation in the Model United Nations, and the selective Bonner Leaders program by offering students an additional opportunity to be exposed to international issues outside the existing International Relations major.
An official signing ceremony was held on April 25, 2014 with college representatives, local public officials and Peace Corps office representative.
“The Peace Corps Prep program complements our mission to help students live lives of purpose where flourishing is intertwined with the welfare of others,” said President Bobby Fong. “It is our hope that the Peace Corps Prep Program will enrich campus-wide conversations regarding international affairs, and inspire more students to explore international service.”
The Ursinus program will be co-coordinated by Ambassador Joseph Melrose Jr. and Dr. Christian Rice. Ambassador Melrose, a former U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, is Ambassador-in-Residence and Professor of International Relations at the College and until recently served as the Acting U.S. Representative for Management and Reform at the United States Mission to the U.N. Dr. Rice is the Assistant Dean for Civic Engagement and directs the College’s Bonner Leader Program. They are collaborating with the office of Career and Professional Development.
Ally Snell, Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Peace Corps Office of Diversity and National Outreach, said the program consists of courses and a community service component chosen by each participating school to help prepare students for international development work and potential Peace Corps service. While not a guarantee of acceptance into the Peace Corps, “students participating in the program will gain skills that will make them competitive applicants. Students who successfully complete the program will also receive official recognition by the Peace Corps.
Students who apply would be required to complete a program of integrated academic courses and out of classroom experiences. The directors anticipate enrolling five to seven students in each of the first three years, building to some 15 to 20 students.
A steady stream of Ursinus alumni have served in the Peace Corps, mostly in the last two decades, including Joe Calhoun 2004, who volunteered for service in Guatemala in 2009-2011. He welcomed the news of the program because not all colleges have specialized degree programs like international relations, or majors related to public health, environmental sustainability, municipal development or agriculture. His work in Guatemala involved working with elders in 63 villages to inventory stores, libraries and electricity distribution. He now works in transportation planning for the city of Allentown, Pa.