Elon adds track to Peace Corps Prep Program with focus on teaching English internationally

The new track is the third in Elon's Peace Corps Prep program, which launched in 2013. 

Elon is expanding its efforts to prepare students to be successful volunteers with the Peace Corps with the addition of a third track of study focused on teaching English to speakers of other languages.

The new track becomes the third available to Elon students following a partnership forged in 2013 between the university and the Peace Corps to help students gain the skills and knowledge necessary to serve internationally. The first track created in 2013 when Elon’s Peace Corps Prep program was created focused on environmental science and agriculture, with Elon adding a second track with a Global Health focus in 2015.

Jennifer Zinchuk, assistant professor of English, headed the effort to add a track to prepare students to teach English through the Peace Corps, and has drawn from her own experiences doing just that with the nonprofit public service organization after she graduated from college. Zinchuk taught English in the Ukraine from 2003 through 2005, and said English teachers account for the largest segment of Peace Corps volunteers.

“This program is a curriculum that gives them the global awareness and job-related awareness to be successful,” Zinchuk said.  “This is something that has tapped into a lot of interest.”

The Peace Corps Preparation program tracks are designed to provide a course of study drawing from Elon’s existing curriculum that helps develop the skills a Peace Corps volunteer would need once they head out on their assignment. For instance, the new track includes core courses in grammar, linguistics and teaching that are supplemented by selections of courses in a variety of topics including “Introduction to World Literature,” “American English,” “International Rhetoric” and “Psychology of Education,” to name a few.

“That’s a real hallmark of the Peace Corps Prep program — everything that is offered through the track is already a course in the catalog,” Zinchuk said.

Additional requirements beyond the coursework include research, internship and leadership experiences that will help create a foundation of knowledge that will be useful in service with the Peace Corps. Completing the Peace Corps Prep program doesn’t guarantee acceptance with the Peace Corps, Zinchuk said, but could help with the application process.

“In my experience, if someone is interested and prepared, the Peace Corps wants to find a posting for them,” Zinchuk said.

Elon now has 10 alumni serving with the Peace Corps, with the majority working in the field of Global Health. They’re in place around the world in countries including the Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Fiji and Madagascar.

Given the large segment of Peace Corps volunteers who are in the area of teaching English, Zinchuk said she hopes to see interest at Elon grow as more learn about the track within the Peace Corps Prep Program. Already more than 100 students have indicated an interest in exploring the new Peace Corps Prep track, Zinchuk said.