Current and prospective students, faculty, and staff, as well as 20 returned Peace Corps Volunteers, came together September 20 to celebrate the start of Illinois State University’s new Peace Corps Prep Program.
“We often talk about civic engagement. What does that really mean? I can tell you it means translating passion and action. It means understanding we’re part of this world and having the imagination to connect with other countries and other cultures,” Illinois State President Larry Dietz said. “So for all of those students who are considering applying for the Peace Corps, I commend you, I encourage you, and we need you.”
Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan Universities collaborated to launch the Peace Corps Prep Program for undergraduate students. Although completion of this program does not guarantee acceptance into the Peace Corps, students who participate in the program will set themselves apart from the other applicants and demonstrate that they have the foundation to succeed in their careers.
Other speakers included Sheila Crowley, acting associate director of the Peace Corps Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection; Eric Jensen, president of Illinois Wesleyan; Greg Shaw, chair of Wesleyan’s political science department; Beverly Beyer, Stevenson Center’s associate director; Deborah Halperin, director of Wesleyan’s Action Research Center; and Vanessa Soto, first-ever Peace Corps campus recruiter.
Shaw, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer himself, stressed the impact Peace Corps Volunteers have on the world. They help build aqueducts, teach craft-making skills to empower women, support small business development, and do so much more.
“Of course there are limits to what you can accomplish in two years abroad, but for most people the first limit they hit will be the boundary of their own imagination,” Shaw said.
After the closing remarks, guests mingled and learned more about the Stevenson Center, Illinois Wesleyan’s Action Research Center, the Prep Program, and the Peace Corps at designated tables.
More than 530 Illinois State alumni have served as Peace Corps Volunteers, and the Stevenson Center hopes that the Peace Corps Prep Program will only increase that number.
Soto, also a Peace Corps Fellow pursuing a master’s degree in political science, commented on her role as campus recruiter and her goal as the link between prospective undergraduate students, the Stevenson Center, and the Peace Corps: “I might not have all the answers, but I know I have a really strong team supporting me. It’s just a huge honor to be a part of that team.”