Have you heard about the Peace Corps Prep program at James Madison University?
The program is new here at JMU, and it helps students better prepare for Peace Corps volunteer service.
Don’t miss this Friday, March 15 spring application deadline!
We asked Dr. Vesna Hart, JMU’s Director of Internation Cooperation from the Center of Global Engagement, some questions about Peace Corps Prep.
Meet Dr. Vesna Hart
As Director of International Cooperation, Dr. Vesna Hart is responsible for promoting global partnership development and project management with a focus on research, scholarship and service, cultural and academic programming, as well as professional development for visiting international scholars and students.
Dr. Hart, a native of Croatia, earned her B.A. in Education from the University of Novi Sad (Republic of Serbia), her M.A. in Education from Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg (USA), and her Psy.D. in Clinical and School Psychology from James Madison University, Harrisonburg (USA).
What is the Peace Corps Prep program?
Peace Corps Prep is a certificate program for undergraduates that centers on one empowering question: How can you prepare yourself to be the best Peace Corps Volunteer you can be? The Peace Corps Prep emphasizes leadership, service, and global relationship building.
How did the Peace Corps Prep program get started at JMU?
Following the successful application to the Peace Corps, JMU joined over 100 higher education institutions in the U.S. who are offering the Peace Corps Prep program. The Peace Corps Prep launched in February 2019. Although the Peace Corps Prep program at JMU is coordinated by staff at Center for Global Engagement, other offices at JMU actively participated in establishing the program and continue to support students in completing the requirements: Career and Academic Planning, Community Service-Learning, and Outreach & Engagement.
What’s the purpose of the Peace Corps Prep program?
The purpose of the Peace Corps Prep program is to enhance students’ undergraduate experience by preparing them for international development fieldwork and potential Peace Corps service.
How does the Peace Corps Prep program benefit students?
Through participation in the Peace Corps Prep program, students can get excellent preparation for service in the Peace Corps, and the skills acquired through the program can also help them obtain and succeed in other globally-oriented service or professional roles.
Once a student completes all the requirements, they receive a certificate from the Peace Corps, which gives them a competitive edge when applying for Peace Corps Service.
What professional skills do students develop through the Peace Corps Prep program?
Through the Peace Corps Prep program, students develop four core competencies Peace Corps has identified as critical to the intercultural work of Peace Corps Volunteers. Here are the skills students develop through the Peace Corps Prep program:
- Skills in one of the following sectors: Education, Health, Environment, Agriculture, Youth in Development, and Community Economic Development
- Foreign language proficiency
- Intercultural competence
- Professional and leadership skills
- Professional development skills
- resume review and professional interview practice with Career and Academic Planning
The Peace Corps Prep program provides a framework for students to build these four competencies by integrating coursework with hands-on experience and professional development.
Most of these requirements JMU students complete anyway during their undergraduate years!
What is your best advice to students hoping to join the Peace Corps after graduation, other than completing the Peace Corps Prep program?
“It takes about 6-9 months from when applicants apply to when they depart. Students can prepare in advance by identifying a specific sector they are interested in. Once they have chosen a sector, i.e. education, environment, or health, they can gain relevant skills and hands-on experience in that field. Individuals can teach English after school, promote environmental conservation in their community, facilitate programs on HIV/AIDS, etc. Once students are ready to apply, I would recommend connecting with their local Peace Corps recruiter, formatting their resume, and speaking to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers at JMU.”Matthew Lee Merritt, Peace Corps’ Regional Recruiter in Virginia (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Lesotho 2013-2015)