Ursinus College is officially a participant in the Peace Corps Preparation program as one of 14 colleges and universities in the U.S. which can offer a focused program leading to international service.
A signing ceremony Friday, April 25 made the partnership official. The program, which will be directed by the Hon. Joseph Melrose, Ambassador-in-Residence and professor in the Politics and International Relations department, and Christian Rice, Assistant Dean for Civic Engagement and director of the Bonner Leader Program, will begin modestly this fall and grow each year. Carla Rinde, Director of the Career and Professional Development office, was instrumental in bringing the program to campus. Schools are selected for the program based on their demonstrated interest in promoting international learning and service opportunities to their students.
David Burgess, Chief of Operations for Volunteer Recruitment and Selection at the U.S. Peace Corps office in Washington, D.C., said at the ceremony that the Peace Corps office approved six colleges which they deemed a good fit for the organization. The newly approved colleges and universities join eight schools with current programs. “Already I know it is a great fit,” Burgess said, surrounded by a student art show which he said showed students’ “cross-cultural competency.” The Peace Corps looks for schools with “quality and commitment, experiential learning community service and rigorous academics leading to international learning,” he explained.
Ursinus alumni who have served in the Peace Corps are not large in number, he said, “but one individual can have an enormous impact.” Some Ursinus Peace Corps alumni returned for the ceremony, joining Travis Maider, a senior chemistry major who is going to serve with the Peace Corps in Senegal.
Burgess was appointed Chief of Operations for Volunteer Recruitment and Selection in June 2013. Previously he had served as Chief of Operations for the Europe, Mediterranean & Asia (EMA) Region. He also served as acting Country Director in numerous countries in the EMA Region, and as acting EMA Regional Director for almost two years 2008-2010. During the 1980s, David was the Peace Corps Country Director in Morocco and Niger, and served as acting Country Director in a half dozen posts in Africa.
Professor Melrose, retired Ambassador to Sierra Leone and recently acting ambassador to the U.N. for Management and Reform and a member of the Ursinus Class of 1966, gave opening remarks and put the Peace Corps in historical context.
“The Peace Corps changes lives, and that is something we do here,” he said. “We want to enhance what we have.” State Senator John Rafferty also attended the ceremony.
The program would build upon offerings such as longstanding participation in the Model United Nations, and the selective Bonner Leaders program by offering students an additional opportunity to be exposed to international issues outside the existing International Relations major.
The other schools approved for preparatory programs this year are Arcadia university, Wilmington University, Hiram College, Georgia Gwinnett college and University of Washington, Tacoma.
The other eight schools with existing programs are Elon University, Knox College, Pittsburg State University, Shawnee State University, University of Missouri, University of Montana, University of North Georgia and Wittenberg University.