Elon’s Peace Corps prep program sees new leadership, expanded options

The program has seen continued growth and success in recent years, with Elon named as a top producer of Peace Corps volunteers by the service organization earlier this year. A fall kick-off celebration for the program will be held on Oct. 30.

Elon University is continuing to build upon the success it has seen in preparing students to serve in the Peace Corps following graduation, with a new faculty member leading its Peace Corps Prep Program and an expansion of options for students considering service.

Josh Kaufmann '15, who completed the Peace Corps Prep Program and who began his service with the Peace Corps in the Youth Development sector in 2016. 
The expansion and changes come after Elon was named a top producer of Peace Corps volunteers earlier this year, a designation by the government-sponsored service organization based upon the number of graduates volunteering. Elon ranked No. 16 among medium-sized schools on the agency’s list, with 18 Elon alumni currently volunteering worldwide and 127 having served at the time of the ranking.

This year, Elon’s Peace Corps Prep Program achieved recertification as the program expanded the range of work sectors it prepares students for to include Agriculture, Community Economic Development, Education, Environment, Health and Youth in Development.

​The result is that the program will have an appeal to students from a much broader spectrum of disciplines, said Jennifer Eidum, assistant professor of English and new director of the Peace Corps Prep Program. To support the expansion, the program now has faculty advisors from the departments of Biology, Environmental Studies, Economics, Education, Public Health Studies and Human Service Studies.

“Our goal would be to have better campuswide visibility so that anyone who is interested in the Peace Corps or international service can reach out to us,” said Eidum, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine.

Program requirements have also shifted to incorporate more than just a litany of classes. To receive the Peace Corps Prep Program certificate from the program, students must complete three courses in their chosen sector and also at least 50 hours of service in the sector. The number of classes required has been reduced and the service hour requirement has been added.

Students are also required to demonstrate intercultural competence through a range of experiences during their time at Elon as well as to show professional and leadership development.

The preparation program draws students with a range of interests, and not all pursue the program completion certificate with the goal of applying to serve in the Peace Corps, Eidum said. In fact, of the 10 students who received certificates in April for completing the program, only half of those went on to serve in the Peace Corps.

While there are students who set their sights on the certification early in their time at Elon, there are also those who realize during their junior or senior year that they have already made progress toward the certification and then focus on completion as they finish up their time at Elon, Eidum said.

“Much like a pre-law or pre-med program, this is a pre-international service program,” Eidum said.

Often, completing the requirements can help bring structure to a range of classes and experiences throughout a college career, Eidum said. “This certificate can help those majors and minors and experiences talk to each other to show a journey,” she said. “It can demonstrate the connections between the classes and career goals.”

The program is having its Fall Kickoff Celebration on Oct. 30 from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Global Commons Room 103. The celebration includes dessert and a conversation with a panel of returned Peace Corps volunteers. ​

Elon has an increasingly strong relationship with the Peace Corps. Along with the Peace Corps Prep Program, the Elon University School of Law in 2017 launched the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program through which returned Peace Corps volunteers can receive scholarships to assist in their pursuit of a law degree.