Peace Corps Preparation Program: Your Gateway to the World

Travel the world. Learn to speak another language. Be a part of another culture. Work to improve the lives of others. Meet the president of the United States.

These are all things that you could do as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Doubtful? Take a look at the story of MU alumnus Glenn Blumhorst.

Blumhorst received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1985 and a Master of Public Administration in 1987. Upon completing his studies, Blumhorst traveled to Guatemala as a Peace Corps volunteer. His work was focused on agriculture extension and he worked directly with 18 rural Mayan Indian communities. While in the country, he was able to help increase the economic capacity through alternative technologies, production diversification and resource conservation practices. Being completely immersed in this culture, he experienced growth in his foreign language skills and perhaps most importantly, his cultural awareness.

Following his time in Guatemala, Blumhorst continued to consistently climb the ranks in his Peace Corps career. He started as a recruiter for ACDI/VOCA, a private and international development nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., and then became their Chief of Party and Country Representative in Colombia. At this position, he provided startup and early implementation leadership for a major program to enhance the social, economic and political inclusion of ethnic minorities. In total, Blumhorst served with ACDI/VOCA for 18 years and traveled to 28 countries in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Today, Blumhorst is the president of the National Peace Corps Association, a national membership organization for individuals influenced by the Peace Corps experience. NPCA prides itself on a mission, according to its website, “to connect and champion Peace Corps community members in ‘bringing the world home.’” Because of his position, Blumhorst was able to sit in on a 45 minute meeting with President Barack Obama on November 22, 2013 – the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, founder of the Peace Corps.

Although the Peace Corps has clearly led Blumhorst to a successful professional career, the impact it has had on the type of person he is remains just as important.

“It’s a tough job, but with perseverance you’ll come out a much better person. I gained language, cultural agility, social conscience, global perspective, local insight, friends and a new community,” he said.

MU graduate student Tracey Goldner can also attest to the phenomenal opportunities the Peace Corps can provide.

Goldner is a 2013-2014 Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellow here at the university. She was able to apply for this esteemed program (which provides a full tuition waver, health insurance coverage and an annual stipend of at least $12,100) following service as a community health extension volunteer in Turkmenistan, a country located in central Asia, from 2010 to 2012. As a volunteer, Goldner worked at a tiny, local health clinic. She taught lessons on health and wellness, instructed aerobics and yoga classes, promoted preventative aid in the areas of smoking and drug use, encouraged critical thinking, and trained clinic employees. She also implemented teaching of leadership and journalism.

Goldner is straightforward when she speaks about how the Peace Corps changed her life.

“It’s given me a wider perspective for understanding the world. I used to take my washing machine for granted, “ she said. “You have a lot more gratitude for being able to live in [America], especially with all of the journalistic freedom.”

Another benefit, according to Goldner: “You can really make an impact on an individual person’s life and see it firsthand.”

The Peace Corps Prep Program, offered by MU’s Office of Service-Learning, is designed to help students interested in joining the Peace Corps. Its curriculum is centered on the mission and goals of the Peace Corps:

  • Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women
  • Promoting a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served
  • Promoting a better understanding of others on the part of Americans

Peace Corps Prep allows a Peace Corps affiliated institution to suggest curriculum and guidance to prepare students for international service. Students will participate for two or more years, taking courses in foreign language, international development and content specific areas. The program will also engage students in a variety of other activities, such as:

  • Service-learning field experiences that highlight community engagement and public service
  • Development of essential skills and a personal profile to excel in global service activities
  • Preparation for the Peace Corps application process
  • Creation of competitive, long-term career skills

Students who complete the program will earn a minor in Leadership and Public Service from the MU Office of Service Learning, a Peace Corps Prep certificate from the U.S. Peace Corps, and a Multicultural Certificate from the MU College of Arts and Sciences.

It’s highly beneficial to students, as it provides a direct path to international service and networking with Peace Corps organizations and members.

To find out more about the Peace Corps Prep Program, contact the Office of Service-Learning via email atservicelearning@missouri.edu, via phone at 573-882-1165, or visit the office at 205 Lowry Hall.