Peace Corps and William Paterson University Launch New Peace Corps Prep Program

This week, the Peace Corps and William Paterson University collaboratively launched a new undergraduate certificate program called Peace Corps Prep. Combining targeted coursework with hands-on experience, the program builds the competencies needed for students to go on to be strong Peace Corps volunteers or other intercultural fieldworkers. 

“Students today are passionate about working with communities abroad to solve important challenges,” Peace Corps Director of the Office of University Programs La’Teashia Sykes said. “Through the Peace Corps Prep program at William Paterson University, students can develop skills specifically targeted to Peace Corps service and careers in the international development and service communities.”

Peace Corps Prep will be structured as an interdisciplinary certificate program jointly housed in William Paterson University’s Career Development Center and Office of Campus Activities, Service and Leadership. Through a combination of coursework and hands-on community service experience, students will develop four core competencies that are critical to intercultural fieldwork: foreign language proficiency, intercultural competence, professional and leadership development, and sector-specific skills in one of Peace Corps’ six sectors (education, health, environment, agriculture, youth in development, or community economic development). These skills will not only give students a competitive edge when applying for Peace Corps service, but they can also be built upon and marketed throughout their careers.

William Paterson University is uniquely positioned to partner with the Peace Corps because it has a long-standing tradition of service, strongly encouraging volunteer hours for all students prior to graduation; it is also the first university in New Jersey to require a course in civic engagement as part of its core curriculum. Additionally, William Paterson boasts one of the most diverse college campuses in the northeastern United States and it is federally designated as both a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and Minority-Serving Institution (MSI). Preparing students from diverse backgrounds for Peace Corps service ensures that future cohorts of volunteers will best represent the diversity of America.

For these reasons, the Peace Corps approached William Paterson University officials last year about the possibility of a collaboration, and after an application process, the institution was one of nine nationwide selected this year as a partner for Peace Corps Prep.

“Civic engagement is a core value at William Paterson University. We are honored to be selected as a partner in this prestigious program, which will be a great asset to our already extensive commitment to creating civically engaged citizens,” said Donna Minnich Spuhler, Director of Campus Activities, Service and Leadership at William Paterson. “Students who complete the requirements of Peace Corps Prep will earn more than a certificate; they will have a great opportunity to gain knowledge and real-world skills to better the world around them.”

Since 1961, William Paterson University has sent 66 alumni into Peace Corps service. Several faculty have also proudly served, two of whom shared their experiences with the campus community during its event to celebrate the launch of Peace Corps Prep: William Kernan, a professor of public health who served in Malawi and Guinea, and Madhuri Mukherjee, a professor of languages and cultures who served in Madagascar. 

The Peace Corps has Peace Corps Prep partnerships with more than 125 leading academic institutions nationwide. Established in 2007, the program aims to meet the demand for Peace Corps volunteers with a broad and relevant set of expertise, and to support schools’ efforts to provide substantive, globally focused experiences for their students. 

To learn more about the Peace Corps Prep program at William Paterson University, contact:

Mary Alice Barrows, Director, Career Development Center, at or Donna Minnich Spuhler, Director, Campus Activities, Service and Leadership, at