Oct. 26, 2023
By Celina Sandoval, 713-743-3774
On Monday, October 16, 2023, the University of Houston welcomed Director of the Peace Corps Carol Spahn and members of her team to campus. Their visit held a significant purpose — to fortify the bond between UH and the Peace Corps and discuss how graduates can enter the ranks of this transformative program.
During a round table discussion with UH leadership and staff, Spahn met with Amb. Michael Pelletier (Ret'd), executive director of the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), Maggie Mahoney, director of Global Engagement, and Joi Gobert, assistant director of Global Initiatives. Spahn also met with UH Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Diane Z. Chase along with staff members who oversee programs and departments that serve as incubators for future Peace Corps volunteers. Many of these University staff members had once served as Peace Corps members.
During the discussion, they delved into the invaluable skills that one acquires during Peace Corps service: intercultural development, community engagement, resilience in the face of real-world challenges, cross-cultural communication proficiency, and a wealth of cultural experiences.
“These skills seamlessly transfer into valuable assets applicable to their future careers,” Pelletier said.
According to Pelletier, UH’s Peace Corps Prep program is among the resources on campus focused on helping students ready themselves for life changing experiences offered by the humanitarian agency.
“Fulfilling the Peace Corps Prep program at UH and hopefully, serving as Peace Corps Volunteers after graduation, allows our students to fulfill their desire and commitment to serving their communities and the world,” said Pelletier.
Turning their attention to UH's vibrant student leadership, Spahn addressed students’ questions regarding the Peace Corps. Her objective was to understand what students are looking for in post-graduation opportunities One question that came up stressed on the importance of how to engage first-generation students and those with limited resources, ensuring they too could access the opportunities offered by the Peace Corps. Spahn replied that there are many resources available to students that would allow them to choose Peace Corps as not only a valuable life experience, but also supporting their careers. Benefits include travel and financial compensation along with career support services before, during and after their time in the Peace Corp.
According to UH Student Government Association President Benjamin Rizk, the Peace Corps and the University are perfectly in sync when it comes to providing students with the skills needed for both professional careers and community service.
“The Peace Corps' mission aligns with the goals of the University in that both institutions are engaged in groundbreaking work and carving out avenues for people of all backgrounds to achieve goals that go beyond just receiving an education or helping another in need but changing the trajectory of one's life," said Rizk.
Spahn was impressed by the enthusiasm of Rizk and other Cougars in attendance. She said that they are engaged, energetic and prepared to make a difference in their respective communities.
“The students and student leaders I met are driven to build a better world and are already making important contributions to their communities,” Spahn said. “They are exactly the type of Volunteers we seek in this transformative moment in history.”
During the visit with student leaders, Mahoney amplified awareness of UH's Peace Corps Prep Program. She urged the student leaders in the room to become influencers and guides for other students and advocate for both Peace Corps Prep and UH's Global Citizen Credential program.
Both programs serve as degree enhancements. The Peace Corps Prep (PC Prep) is a specialized certificate initiative that enriches students' undergraduate journey by equipping them for international development work and potential Peace Corps service. The University’s Global Credential recognizes students for activities that build global knowledge and skills.
Students can learn more about both programs and other opportunities to gain global knowledge during International Education Week from November 14 – 18.
Students can also visit IGE online for a deeper dive into the wealth of opportunities available through UH's global engagement initiatives.