A photo of a Peace Corps volunteer with girls learning in a classroom in Africa. Photo courtesy of the Peace Corps.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The Peace Corps and Northeastern Illinois University are pleased to announce a new partnership. Beginning in Fall 2023, Northeastern will launch the Peace Corp Prep (PC Prep) program, an undergraduate certificate program that combines targeted coursework with hands-on experience, building the competencies needed to be strong Peace Corps volunteers or other intercultural fieldworkers. 

The Peace Corps is an international service network of volunteers, community members, host country partners and staff who are driven by the agency’s mission of world peace and friendship. At the invitation of governments around the world, Peace Corps volunteers work alongside community members on locally-prioritized projects in six areas: education, health, environment, agriculture, community economic development and youth development. Through service, members of the Peace Corps network develop transferable skills and hone intercultural competencies that position them to be the next generation of global leaders. Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 240,000 Americans have served in 142 countries worldwide. 

“Students today are passionate about working with communities abroad to solve important challenges,” Peace Corps Director of the Office of University Programs La’Teashia Sykes said. “Through the Peace Corps Prep program at Northeastern Illinois University, students can develop skills specifically targeted to Peace Corps service and careers in the international development and service communities.”

Through a combination of coursework and hands-on experience, students will develop four core competencies that are critical to intercultural fieldwork: foreign language proficiency, intercultural competence, professional and leadership development, and sector-specific skills in one of the Peace Corps’ six sectors. These skills will give students a competitive edge when applying for Peace Corps service, and can be built upon and marketed throughout their careers.

At Northeastern Illinois University, PC Prep will be structured as an interdisciplinary certificate program housed in its College of Arts and Sciences within the Department of World Languages and Cultures. Northeastern is uniquely positioned to partner with the Peace Corps because it has a long-standing tradition of service. In addition to being the longest-standing four-year Hispanic-Serving Institution in the Midwest, the University provides students with a number of service opportunities in an effort to challenge them to consistently use their education in service to their communities and beyond. 

“The Peace Corps Prep program at Northeastern Illinois University, which leads to a certificate issued by the Peace Corps, is a way to motivate our students to conceptualize their coursework beyond the confines of their major,” said Northeastern’s Peace Corps Prep Program Coordinator Denise Cloonan Cortez de Andersen. “It encourages students to be activists and educators for change in Chicago, throughout the U.S. and abroad. Through PC Prep, all Northeastern undergraduate students will have the opportunity to acquire skills—including intercultural competence, leadership development and language skills—that are transferable to many professional environments and will prepare them for success in today’s competitive job market.” 

Established in 2007, PC Prep has partnerships with more than 125 leading academic institutions nationwide. The program aims to meet the demand for Peace Corps volunteers with a broad and relevant set of expertise, and to support the schools’ efforts to provide substantive, globally focused experiences for their students. Northeastern Illinois University is the only school in Chicago to offer this program.

The application for the PC Prep program is now open at neiu.edu/peacecorpsprep

Top photo: A Peace Corps volunteer with girls learning in a classroom in Africa. Photo courtesy of the Peace Corps.