In less than a year, College of Public Health (COPH) graduate student Dionna Hearn joins the Peace Corps as a Volunteer in South Africa. Currently, she is earning an online Master of Public Health degree in Global Disaster Management and Humanitarian Relief.
Peace Corps has been in South Africa since 1994, originally focused on the education sector. Currently, Peace Corps-South Africa has over 170 Volunteers serving in the areas of Education, NGO Development, and HIV/AIDS. As an HIV/AIDS Volunteer, Dionna’s assignment will likely include working with local NGOs to build their capacity to meet demands of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Dionna leaves for South Africa in January. After arriving in-country, she will participate in a 10-week community-based Pre-Service Training. During her training Dionna will live with a South African host family and will receive intensive language training. She will also receive training in cross-cultural communication, community integration, development issues, health and personal safety, and additional technical skills needed for her assignment.
Dionna joins seven other COPH graduate students currently serving in the Peace Corps, including Christine Meister (who left for Guatemala last month), Jennifer Burges (Uganda), Jessica Chambless (Botswana), Stephen Cormier (Cameroon), Aditi Desai (Uganda), Mezelle Moore (Mongolia), and Folashade Osibanjo (Zambia). These students are all serving as Volunteers through the Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) program. The PCMI program is a unique opportunity which allows these students to take their graduate coursework here in Tampa and online, and then while serving overseas as Peace Corps Volunteers, MPH students carry out their International Field Experience and Special Project, and MSPH students collect data for their Master’s thesis. Samantha Spedoske, who also served in South Africa, recently returned to the United States after completing her two years of Peace Corps service and expects to graduate in August.
For more information about the Peace Corps Master’s International program, visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/learn/whyvol/eduben/mastersint/. For more specific information about the PCMI option at the USF College of Public Health, visit http://health.usf.edu/publichealth/peacecorpsmi.html, where you can also find links to blogs from some of the COPH students currently serving as Peace Corps Volunteers around the world.