Preparing to Make a Difference through Peace CorpsPrep

Peace Corps Prep
Peace Corps Prep
Kari Henquinet, right, shares Peace Corps information with Peace Corps Prep student Laura Schimmel, left.

How can you take a passion for service, a love of geese, and the knowledge you’ve gained at Michigan Tech and apply that to the world?

One way is to prepare for the Peace Corps in the Peace Corps Prep program of the Pavlis Honors College.

We’ve all heard of the Pavlis Honors College. In contrast to the focus of most honors colleges, Pavlis welcomes motivated, committed students without a GPA-based admission process. Centering its curriculum on experiential and interdisciplinary learning, the Pavlis Honors College offers six different pathway options to its students. The Peace Corps Prep program offers Pavlis students the opportunity to unite a passion for service and technical knowledge (and yes, possibly even a love for geese).

The Peace Corps is a federal volunteer program whose mission is to help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women, to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served, and to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Volunteers work for two years after training for two to three months. The application process is highly selective; only about 5,000 out of 20,000 applicants are accepted.

Peace Corps Prep can up the odds that a Michigan Tech student will be accepted. It is an official partnership between the U.S. Peace Corps and Michigan Tech, who have collaboratively designed the curriculum. Students focus in an area of international development such as health, education or the environment. Those who complete the program receive a certificate from the Peace Corps as well as honors recognition at graduation and on their diploma. While earning a Peace Corps Prep certificate does not guarantee acceptance into the Peace Corps, the Prep program aligns with the training and skills that the Peace Corps looks for in an applicant.

Laura Schimmel at the Zoo

Laura Schimmel is a 4th year materials science and mechanical engineering student with a love for geese, who is following the Peace Corps Prep pathway. Schimmel volunteered this summer at the Niabi Zoo in Coal Valley, Illinois, which fulfilled the immersion experience requirement of Peace Corps Prep. She worked with the Oceans and Pollinators exhibits, teaching visitors about the different animals in the exhibits and the importance of environmental conservation.

“Sometimes we don’t feel connected with the exotic animals at the zoo, but we might be more closely related than we think,” Schimmel said. This was an idea she shared with visitors, pointing out that “the zoo is about 10 miles from the Mississippi River, which connects directly to the Gulf of Mexico, and ultimately out to the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, so what happens in the river in Illinois can affect the animals that you see in the zoo whose native habitats are the sea or ocean.”

Now about those geese.

Animals and Hard Work

Schimmel grew up on a farm raising chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese. “I absolutely love my ducks and geese-- they’re so friendly and social,” Schimmel said, “They each have a distinct personality, and if they get separated, they start honking and quacking… until they become reunited.” Growing up on a farm can lead to a love of animals--not to mention hard work--both of which form a strong foundation for Peace Corps work.

There are six different sectors in which one can serve in the Peace Corps: education, agriculture, community economic development, health, environment and youth development. Schimmel plans to serve in either the agricultural or environmental sector, where she may help a community explore more sustainable agricultural methods or teach middle schoolers about biodiversity and conservation. Her interest in these sectors is driven by a passion for environmental sustainability.

To participate in the Pavlis Honors College Peace Corps Prep pathway, a student must commit for a minimum of two years. During that time, the student will complete the Global Community Development Partnerships minor, a hands-on experience aligned with a sector of Peace Corps work, and several other honors requirements, such as seminar classes, an honors project, leadership and mentoring.

The director of the Peace Corps Prep program is Kari Henquinet from the Social Sciences department. “The program integrates nicely with iDesign or other already existing global and community-oriented student programs,” said Henquinet, an anthropologist who specializes in international development. “This pathway isn’t just for those looking to join the Peace Corps- it’s for anyone looking to broaden their horizons and make a commitment to service.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.