The program, which includes a service-learning project to emerging nations, is open to undergraduate students from all majors.
Registration for the new Peace Corps Preparation program at Texas Tech University is now open.
The 15-hour certificate, which the Women's Studies Program is offering, will include courses in social sciences like anthropology, sociology or political science, language courses, and classes that cover a student's area of emphasis: education, agriculture, health or technology. The final project is a one-month, service-learning project in an emerging nation.
“This is a good way to get in-country experience,” said Charlotte Dunham, director of the Women's Studies Program. “For students who haven't traveled much this is a really good way. It's chaperoned, and it's a chance to go into a country and get to know the people and culture as well as learn things you can bring back rather than just being a tourist.”
The certificate, which Dunham and medical professor Annette Sobel proposed a year ago, focuses on women's issues, health and security. The emphasis on women came about because much of a country's economic and cultural stability is dependent on women.
Sobel, a doctor who spent 20 years in the military, saw just how much women suffer as she traveled throughout the world. Many don't know how, or have the resources, to prevent infection after childbirth or filter their water so their families don't get sick. She's also seen poor and nomadic groups whose women could create and sell products but don't have funding to get the project started or means to market their products.
“In many respects the key to development is empowering women,” Dunham said. “The other thing is, women have special vulnerabilities, and we want to give them additional tools to protect themselves and their children.”
The certificate will prepare students who are considering joining the Peace Corps, but the curriculum will benefit students with an interest in international affairs or health. Women and men from any undergraduate program can participate. Because Sobel also works at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, she is recruiting medical students to act as mentors to the undergraduates.
“A lot of students here are really focused on the fast track to get into nursing or medical school,” Sobel said. “If they do something like this, I think it'll help them be more competitive.”
Dunham and Sobel anticipate the certificate taking two years to complete when added to a normal course load. They will work with Peace Corps representatives to identify service projects, primarily in South America and, if there is enough regional stability, West Africa. At the beginning of the program, each student will pick a project and take classes to acquire the language and skills necessary to contribute to that project.
Participants do not need a medical background, Sobel said. Even health-based projects do not require doctors or nurses. Rather, the students will be teaching about clean water, basic life support, how to use native plants for food and medicine and other life support skills. Students will learn those skills before going to their projects.
As part of the program there will be a series of seminars throughout the semester, starting with Vice Provost of International Affairs Tibor Nagy, who was a U.S. ambassador to Guinea and Ethiopia in the late 1990s.
For more information about the program and to register, go to the program's website.