PARIS FRANKLIN; Culture Editor;

If you are interested in service work, especially with the Peace Corps–an immersive two-year service experience in an area of need–Pacific Lutheran University has officially launched its Peace Corps Prep Program.

As of March 1, students can engage in a variety of academic tracks meant to best prepare them for the different sectors of Peace Corps work.

The experience not only prepares students for the Peace Corps. Rather, it is able to prepare students for any service project or future employment.

“I think Peace Corps Prep is a really great thing for students who are interested in any form of international service or domestic service, as well as other possibilities, like government work maybe, or work in nonprofit organizations,” said Katherine Wiley, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, leader of the program and Peace Corps alumna. “I think it just really helps provide them with skills that will translate really well to those experiences.”

While other universities have worked directly with the Peace Corps for some time, this is the first time that PLU will be able to offer a certification for students that may give them a competitive edge when applying for the Peace Corps or other volunteer programs.

Joining the program does not require that students apply for the Peace Corps following graduation, nor does it guarantee admission to students who do apply, but it is able to show potential employers and service organizations how students are already prepared for this type of work.

As far as how the Prep program works, “It asks [students] to get experience in one sector, whether that is health or environment or education, but a really important aspect beyond coursework is hands-on experience in that, as well as courses, that have them engage in diversity and cross-cultural diversity,” Wiley said. “So really training [students] in what does it mean to live with and work with and serve people who are different populations from maybe my background.”

While Peace Corps Prep requires both certain coursework and hands-on experience, Wiley believes that this is no difficult task for interested Lutes.

“A lot of students are already sort of getting these things obviously in the PLU education, but it’s a way to help students think about that differently and package it for themselves and for future employers in a way that I think helps them bring those ideas together,” Wiley added.

Wiley says that she hopes that the program will better prepare students to be volunteers. “I think our hope is that Peace Corps Prep will help students who do decide to do the Peace Corps, or something else like that, be better prepared, more critically-minded. By that I mean critically-minded of the challenges of volunteering and the power differentials that happen when you’re a U.S. citizen who goes and lives in a country that is maybe a lot poorer than ours,” Wiley said. “So just help them be better prepared and better volunteers.”

Even if students do not follow through with the Peace Corps following their time at PLU, the skills learned in the program are still invaluable. “If [students] decide not to do Peace Corps, it still gives them a lot to reflect on and draw from whatever they do after campus and after graduation,” Wiley said.

Wiley and the team from the Wang Center and the Center for Community Engagement are looking forward to having the program here at PLU. “We’re really excited and students seem excited,” Wiley said.

Applications for the Spring Semester are open until March 31, and students are invited to contact Katherine Wiley at for more information.

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