MU Chancellor Brady Deaton knows well the benefits of serving in the Peace Corps. Deaton is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, having served as a vocational agricultural educator in northern Thailand 1962-64.
“It leads you to be stronger in whatever you are doing and leads you to approach the rest of your life with an incredible vigor to bring about change,” Deaton says. “It has enabled me to bring to my role as chancellor a real commitment to international work and to carry that mission forward.”
A new Peace Corps Prep Program at Mizzou is evidence of that mission moving forward. The program will be a component of an undergraduate curriculum consisting of experience-based community service and selected courses designed to help prepare students for volunteer service in international development, potentially with the Peace Corps.
Deaton signed an agreement with the Peace Corps establishing the program during a kickoff event Sept. 25 at MU's Reynolds Alumni Center.
“This is a great celebration for Mizzou,” Deaton says. “The Peace Corps gives us the opportunity to learn about the world in a new way. It allows us to see ourselves and our nation in a new way. It’s a wonderful time for reflecting and for gaining knowledge in ways that you cannot otherwise gain that knowledge.”
The Mizzou Peace Corps Prep Program is the eighth of its kind in the United States, and MU is the largest U.S. university to implement the program.
Peace Corps Associate Director of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection Helen Lowman attended the celebration on Wednesday. Like Deaton, Lowman served in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.
“One thing that has come across loud and clear is a real passion to make a difference here at Mizzou,” Lowman says. “Whether it is working with a Boys and Girls Club or serving overseas, there is a feeling here on this campus that is palpable. It is really part of the foundation of Mizzou.”
MU’s Office of Service Learning will coordinate the Peace Corps Prep Program. In addition to an award from the Peace Corps, students who complete the curriculum will receive a minor in leadership public service and MU’s multicultural certificate.
“We are excited that our service learning programs will support students earning such a prestigious award, which will prepare them for global service in the future,” said Anne-Marie Foley, director of the Office of Service Learning.
The program's 16-credit hour curricular structure includes nine credit hours of service learning, six credit hours of cultural, leadership and public-policy courses selected from an approved list, and a one-hour “Global Service and the Peace Corps” seminar. The first seminar will be launched in January.
“Mizzou currently has a successful partnership with the Peace Corps, housing a Peace Corps information office on campus and offering graduate programs through the Peace Corps Fellows program,” Foley says. “This new Peace Corps Prep award is an excellent addition to our curriculum and fits so well with our minor for leadership and public service. This is a great asset for our university and for students who have aspirations of global public service.”
Approximately 35 Mizzou alumni are currently serving in the Peace Corps in 22 countries across the globe, and more than 985 alumni have served since 1961, when the agency was created. More than 210,000 American of all backgrounds and ages have served in the Peace Corps in 139 countries around the world.
“Peace Corps is very grateful for the contributions Mizzou graduates have made to communities across the globe and here at home” Lowman says. “We look forward to welcoming even more Mizzou graduates into the Peace Corps family.”