As of this fall, Austin College is one of a handful of colleges in the country to offer a Peace Corps Preparation Program (PCPP), designed to help students acquire the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to serve in the Peace Corps. The program was developed through a cooperative agreement between the College and the U.S. Peace Corps.
Helen Lowman ’88, Peace Corps associate director of volunteer recruitment and selection, was on campus in October to launch the program. An Austin College Peace Corps Alumni Panel offered information on their own experiences and the benefits of the program. Panelists were Lowman, who also served in Thailand and as regional director for Europe, Mediterranean, and Asia, as well as country director for China and Mongolia during her history with the organization; as well as Rachel Branaman ’01, who served in Namibia from 2009 to 2011; Jake Pritchard ’10, who spent 2011 to 2013 in Masaya, Nicaragua; and Kyle Floyd ’06, who Skyped in from his current Peace Corps assignment in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. At least 34 alumni have completed Peace Corps assignments.
The PCPP curriculum includes at least two years of foreign language study plus four courses from among 22 specified Austin College areas of study. Students completing the program earn recognition that will appear on their transcript. While the program does not guarantee acceptance into the Peace Corps, participants will gain skills that are an advantage in the competitive application process and in other international development work. Students accepted to the PCPP benefit from cross-cultural experience, foreign language proficiency, practical skills, global understanding, and cultural empathy, all of which are highly valued by employers in today’s global economy.