Mercer’s Peace Corps Prep program gives students edge after graduation

769
a table with peace corps flyers on it
Mercer University launched its Peace Corps Prep certificate program in 2018 to prepare students for potential Peace Corps service. Mercer University photo

Nearly every Mercer University student who was selected for the Peace Corps over the last five years has at least one thing in common: They participated in the University’s Peace Corps Prep certificate program. 

Mercer started its Peace Corps Prep program in 2018 to prepare students for potential Peace Corps service after graduation. Since then, 11 of 13 students offered positions in the Peace Corps participated in the prep program. In all, 97 students have completed the program, according to Mercer’s Office of Global Engagement.

headshot of woman with blond hair
Emily Dunn

“A lot of students who participate in it don’t actually go into the Peace Corps afterward, but it’s a really great certificate to have on a resume as students are going out into the workforce after graduation,” said Emily Dunn, assistant director of global education. “It shows leadership throughout your time at Mercer. It also shows training and experience in specific work sectors, intercultural competence and foreign language skills.” 

Mercer recently renewed its agreement with the Peace Corps to offer the program for another five years. The University ranks fourth nationally among Peace Corps Prep certificate-issuing institutions

Alumna Johna Wright was offered a position in the Peace Corps after completing the prep program. However, she instead accepted a Fulbright U.S. Student Program award to pursue a master’s degree in comparative social policy and welfare at Tampere University in Tampere, Finland.

headshot of a woman with red hair
Johna Wright

Wright, who graduated from Mercer in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, is now coordinator of fellowships and scholarships for the University and previously coordinated the Peace Corps Prep program. 

“The Peace Corps Prep program is extremely complementary to a Mercer education because there’s so much of a genuine focus on community involvement and service,” Wright said. “I wanted to be able to expand upon things that I was already learning in the classroom and be able to apply it in a way that was going to help me in the future.” 

All undergraduate students are eligible to participate in the Peace Corps Prep program. Mercer recommends students start the program their freshman year, but it’s possible for students of any year to participate. 

Students in the program identify an interest in one of six Peace Corps work sectors, which are education, health, environment, agriculture, youth in development, or community economic development. 

Within their chosen work sector, participants gain training and experience, including at least 50 work or volunteer hours in their sector; intercultural competence; professional and leadership development; and foreign language skills.  

Many of Mercer’s general education requirements may be used toward the certificate, Dunn said.  

Achieving a Peace Corps Prep certificate helps Peace Corps applicants stand out and puts them on the radar of Mercer’s Peace Corps recruiter. It also helps applicants think through some of the questions they may wrestle with on their application, she said. 

“What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? How do you want to impact the world? All of these questions are thought about and answered within the prep program,” Dunn said. 

Jamyah Combs, a senior global health studies major who completed the Peace Corps Prep program in the fall, said achieving the certificate made her feel more confident about deciding what she wanted to do after graduation. 

“It really did give a sense of direction of where I could be and where I might be,” she said. “I think that really did help with those anxieties that you run into your senior year and knowing that I do have the skills and professional development to take on Peace Corps if I ever choose to.” 

 

Do you have a story idea or viewpoint you'd like to share with The Den?
Get in touch with us by emailing den@mercer.edu or submitting this online form.
Jennifer Falk is director of digital communications at Mercer. She edits and writes feature stories for The Den and examines web data and analytics to drive content decisions. She also creates and supervises the creation of content for primary University web pages and e-newsletters.