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College community welcomes Peace Corps Prep program

Duane Bonifer
Monmouth College officially launched its Peace Corps Prep program on Wednesday in the Morgan Room of Poling Hall. From left: Peace Corps Office of University Programs Program Specialist Manuel Colón, Wackerle Career and Leadership Director Marnie Dugan, anthropology professor Megan Hinrichsen, political science professor Jessica Vivian, political science professor Michael Nelson, President Clarence R. Wyatt and educational studies professor Craig Vivian.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College officially launched its Peace Corps Prep program on Wednesday, opening “amazing opportunities” for students interested in becoming global citizens who can help shape the world.

“This is one of the most exciting developments for the College,” Monmouth President Clarence R. Wyatt told a standing-room-only crowd packed into the Morgan Room of Poling Hall. “The Peace Corps is one of the great legacies of America to the world. We look forward to this being a great hallmark of Monmouth’s contribution to the country and to the world for generations to come.”

Peace Corps Prep is an interdisciplinary certificate program housed in the College’s educational studies department, with support for professional development in the Wackerle Career and Leadership Center. Students learn about and practice leadership, intercultural competence, foreign language and a professional sector of their choice such as education, health or the environment. Those skills will give students a competitive edge when applying for Peace Corps service, and can be built upon and marketed throughout their careers.

“There is a much more compelling case to be made about how and what skills you as a student can acquire to better prepare yourself for Peace Corps service,” said Manuel Colón, program specialist in the Peace Corps Office of University Programs.

The Monmouth Peace Corps Prep program is overseen by two co-coordinators: Wackerle Career and Leadership Director Marnie Dugan and educational studies professor Craig Vivian. It is assisted by anthropology professor Megan Hinrichsen and political science professor Michael Nelson, who is a Peace Corps veteran.

Vivian and his wife, Jessica, who teaches political science at Monmouth, are also Peace Corps veterans. Their son Paul is currently serving in the Peace Corps. Vivian told the crowd of students that the Peace Corps Prep program offers excellent preparation for students who aim to serve others and interact with different cultures.

“The Peace Corps Prep program will allow students like you to make a significant impression on and a meaningful contribution to others,” he said. “Most importantly are the experiences that you can have, which will help you in the building of yourself, the building of your identity – what I like to call your life project.”

Taylor Sutschek ’16 is among more than four dozen Monmouth alumni who have served in the Peace Corps. Sutschek returned in August from two years of teaching English to schoolchildren in the South African province KwaZulu-Natal.

Sutschek told the audience that “the relationships you build during your time in the Peace Corps shape your service in such a positive, amazing way.”

“I’m 100 percent certain that my Peace Corps service shaped me into a better global citizen,” she said. “My time living in South Africa gave me so many amazing opportunities and equipped me with the ability to approach and experience different cultures with humility and respect, to listen and to understand. Peace Corps changed my life, and I am beyond grateful.”

Vivian said that serving in the Peace Corps, which was established by the federal government in 1961, will shape a person’s life in numerous ways.

“It is in the self-constructing experiences that you will begin to understand the necessity of doing this work in a community … a community of friends, of colleagues and initially strangers,” he said. “A large part of being in the Peace Corps is being able to transform strangers into those friends and colleagues who will become part of your life.”