The Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program began in 1985 at Teachers College, Columbia University and now includes more than 80 university partners in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The program is specifically reserved for students who have already completed their Peace Corps service abroad. More information is available online.
When returning Peace Corps volunteers opt to pursue graduate degrees through the organization's fellowship program, only one other U.S. institution gets picked more often than the University of Arizona.
With 63 students attending the UA as part of the Peace Corps' Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program, the UA is No. 2 on the 2014 list of institutions with the greatest number of returned volunteers, the Peace Corps announced this week. Fellows receive scholarships for graduate study in some 25 programs at the UA, and carry out an internship in an underserved U.S. community while pursuing their studies.
All told, 249 UA students have completed the fellowship program since it was established in 2000.
"The Peace Corps is proud to partner with colleges and universities to support returned volunteers who want to further their education while continuing to serve their local community," Carrie Hessler-Radelet, acting director of the Peace Corps, said in a prepared statement.
Across the nation, 84 higher education institutions offer returned Peace Corps volunteers financial aid and professional internships through the program.
Fellows work in urban, tribal and rural communities, supporting schools with a large percentage of low-income students. Others work in community settings, improving public health through nutrition, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention, among other topics.
"Returned volunteers enrich the lives of those around them by sharing their knowledge of the world and different cultures, which helps to strengthen international ties and increase our country’s global competitiveness," Hessler-Radelet noted.
This year, 60 returned Peace Corps volunteers and fellows gave presentations in 23 different schools and 40 classrooms, reaching more than 2,500 people, said Georgia Ehlers, the director of fellowships and community engagement at the UA.
"UA Coverdell Fellows share explicitly what they learned abroad through talks in K-12 schools, University classes and an annual Peace Corps Fair," Ehlers said. "Fellows also share what they learned in daily interactions in class, conversations with colleagues at internship sites, and through collective service projects that benefit a variety of nonprofits."
Beyond the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program, a total of 1,535 UA alumni have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.
Rachel Murray, a UA Paul D. Coverdell Fellow, served as a secondary education volunteer in Sierra Leone. She now serves as a Peace Corps Fellow and is pursing a master's degree in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the UA.
Murray also worked with a teen refugee group, helping thme to integrate into the community and to connect with those in the U.S. The group held regularly meeting, field trips and also conducted service projects. The group also had an overnight camping trip atop Mt. Lemmon.
"I had the unique opportunity to balance two fundamental principles, teaching and learning," Murray said. "I bring my Peace Corps service home by serving as an AmeriCorps member with the International Rescue Committee. The skills I developed and the experiences I had in the Peace Corps have undoubtedly shaped my ability to demonstrate the core functions of the Peace Corps Fellows program."