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Partnering With The Peace Corps

Mission-driven prep program challenges students to be change-makers

Since its founding, Wittenberg has fostered in its students a desire to advance the common good as local citizens and as members of the global community. The service-centered tradition continues in its curriculum as evidenced by the success of the university's Peace Corps-endorsed preparation program, one of only a select few such programs in the country.

"For a school our size, Wittenberg has historically sent a high number of graduates to the Peace Corps," said Scott Rosenberg, professor of history and chair of Wittenberg's Peace Corps Preparation Program. Rosenberg worked meticulously to create Wittenberg's program because, in his words, "it reflects both the school's value as well as the kind of student that attends Wittenberg."

Wittenberg signed an agreement in 2010 with the Peace Corps, becoming only the second liberal arts college in the United States at the time to carry the program. Today, there are 64 universities holding the distinction.

The program provides students with a unique combination of undergraduate coursework and community service. Schools are selected for the program based on their demonstrated interest in promoting international learning and service opportunities to their students.

"Each school independently designs its program based on specified criteria that reflect the Peace Corps' grassroots and integrated approach," said Rosenberg, whose own two years of Peace Corps service in the southern African Kingdom of Lesotho from 1989-91 has continued to inspire hundreds of Wittenberg students to travel there with him during special summer sessions.

"A typical Peace Corps prep program consists of two years of coursework with a focus on international development, an internship or volunteer experience related to Peace Corps' project areas, and foreign language study," he said. "This program/track is designed to better prepare a student for service in the Peace Corps or with other international agencies by exposing them to different cultures as well as the issues involved with international development.

"One of the things that makes Wittenberg special is its culture of service," he continued. "The Peace Corps was a natural lead-in to the Lesotho trip, and for many students, the Peace Corps is a natural conclusion to Wittenberg. The program strives to make Wittenberg students who apply to the Peace Corps more attractive candidates."

Joining the Peace Corps has become very competitive the last few years; only about 20-25 percent of applicants are accepted. Wittenberg's program, which is offered through the university's international studies program, increases the chances for students to be accepted, though joining the Peace Corps is not a requirement of program participation.

"To the extent that Wittenberg's Peace Corps prep program is designed to expose our young people to people of different language, colors, cultures, history and views, the more likely we are to understand the greatly differing perspectives which can and have historically led to endless war," added Lamar Kilgore, Wittenberg class of 1955, whose planned gift of $5 million to the university will support an Endowed Chair in Global Citizenship and an Endowed Chair in Peace Studies, during a recent interview. Kilgore feels deeply passionate about the importance of global citizenship and peace studies at Wittenberg and in the world.

I learned in a hands-on manner how to critically evaluate situations and history, think up creative and new solutions or theories, and focus on the humanity of everyone in the world. And all of those things are applicable to life, not just furthering work in the Peace Corps
Kieran Conway '16

In keeping with the university's and Kilgore's shared desire to have as many students as possible be exposed to cultures other than their own, Wittenberg's Peace Corps Preparation Program is available to any student, regardless of major.

"This track has greatly enhanced my liberal arts learning," said Kieran Conway, class of 2016 from Cincinnati, Ohio. " I learned in a hands-on manner how to critically evaluate situations and history, think up creative and new solutions or theories, and focus on the humanity of everyone in the world. And all of those things are applicable to life, not just furthering work in the Peace Corps."

While she did not apply for the Peace Corps, Conway did apply and was accepted for a year-long service placement in Tennessee with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

"During my interview process, the people I met were very interested to learn of my major track," she said.

"The prep program allows students to engage in projects while they are students that not only prepare them for the Peace Corps, but also other global service," Rosenberg said. 

For those desiring to serve in the Peace Corps, Rosenberg encourages students to get with him as early as possible.

"Interested students should come to me as soon as they start thinking about it, so we can discuss their interest and start working on preparing them," Rosenberg urges. "The application is usually completed about seven-to-nine months before one hopes to serve. Thus, most students fill out their application in the fall or spring of their senior year."

For more information on Wittenberg's program, visit www.wittenberg.edu.

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About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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