Virginia Tech has consistently ranked among the top producers of Peace Corps volunteers from large universities.

Now, the university is taking international service to the next level through a new certification program.

Virginia Tech undergraduates can now participate in the Peace Corps Prep program to lay the groundwork for Peace Corps service, international development fieldwork, and international service careers. Upon completion of the program, students will receive a certificate from the Peace Corps that gives them a competitive advantage when applying.

“This opportunity for our students to serve communities around the world is at the heart of Ut Prosim and our global land-grant mission,” Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke said. “It is also an opportunity for students to continue to build knowledge and engage in experiential learning long after they have graduated from Virginia Tech. We hope this program will inspire and prepare future Virginia Tech students to serve, and we commend the Center for International Research, Education, and Development for helping make the program a reality.”

Participating students will hone their skills in four areas:

  1. Technical training and experience — three courses and 50 hours of hands-on experience in one of six Peace Corps work sectors: education, health, environment, agriculture, youth in development, and community economic development.
  2. Foreign language — three courses in a non-English language.
  3. Intercultural competence — three courses about other cultures while reflecting on their own.
  4. Professional and leadership development — resume writing and job interviewing activities.

Many of the course requirements for a Peace Corps Prep certificate fit within the regular coursework of globally minded students. Prior classes can count toward the requirements, so juniors and seniors may have already made substantial progress. A student guide on the registration site helps students choose courses that count toward the certificate, while also satisfying Pathways Concept Areas or minor requirements. Students can apply any time, and applications are approved on a rolling basis.

“Students today are passionate about service and leaving their mark on the world,” Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen said. “Through the Peace Corps Prep program at Virginia Tech, students can develop skills specifically targeted to Peace Corps service and careers in the international development and service communities.”

In 2019, Virginia Tech was one of 14 universities invited to apply to host the certificate program. The Center for International Research, Education, and Development, part of Outreach and International Affairs, organized an interdisciplinary team of Virginia Tech faculty members, returned Peace Corps volunteers, and student groups to prepare the application. CIRED hosts the Peace Corps recruiter.

CIRED Executive Director Van Crowder said, “We are pleased to bring the Peace Corps Prep program to the Virginia Tech community. For decades, CIRED has built partnerships that enable students and faculty members to become involved in research, teaching, and development around the world. With the help of university partners, such as the Office for Inclusion and Diversity as well as Minorities in Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, we have taken our commitment one step further to offer students another opportunity to become engaged, global citizens who make a difference in the world.”

The Peace Corps Prep program is intended for students from any major, with a special emphasis on those from diverse and traditionally underrepresented communities.

Menah Pratt-Clarke, vice president for strategic affairs and diversity, said, “I am thrilled to partner with the Peace Corps Prep program, in particular for our undergraduate students of color. The program is definitely in alignment with one of our strategic priorities to be a destination for talent. It provides students with a competitive advantage that will eventually build competencies proven to benefit Peace Corps service and other intercultural work.”

Faculty members from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine have volunteered to advise students seeking the Peace Corps certificate.

Peace Corps deployments have been paused since March as a result of COVID-19, and the Peace Corps has not specified when operations will resume. Meanwhile, recruitment and interviews continue, so that volunteers will be prepared to serve when operations resume.

Since 1961, Virginia Tech has produced 712 Peace Corps volunteers, including 44 Hokies in the most recent cohort.

For more information and to register, visit the Peace Corps Prep program site.

Written by April L. Raphiou