COPH offers Coverdell Fellowship for returning Peace Corps volunteers

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Returned Peace Corps volunteers now have the option to become a Paul D. Coverdell Fellow at the USF College of Public Health.

This graduate fellowship program awards financial assistance to returning Peace Corps volunteers pursuing an MPH or MSPH degree and will include an internship in underserved communities in Tampa for two years.

“Paul D. Coverdell Programs offer financial assistance to graduate students who return from the Peace Corps volunteer program and it gives our service-minded volunteers great incentive to enroll in graduate studies at the best place ever, the University of South Florida,” USF System President Judy Genshaft said. “Coverdell Fellows share the passion for world experiences across the university and help to inspire others to advance to the Peace Corps and take advantage of this great program that we have.”

The Peace Corps currently ranks USF third in the nation for the most graduate alumni volunteers and in the top 18 among large colleges and universities for the most undergraduate alumni who volunteer worldwide.

Returned Peace Corps volunteer Valerie Rojas speaks about her experiences abroad in Cambodia at an event commemorating National Peace Corps Week at the COPH. (Photo by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health)

Jesse Casanova, COPH Peace Corps program administrator, said the first Fellows will be admitted fall 2018, and the program will accept up to four students every fall term.

The PC Coverdell Fellows program is offered to students interested in pursuing a graduate degree in public health, civil and environmental engineering, applied anthropology and global sustainability at USF.

“This program will benefit not just the Fellows themselves, but the people with whom they interact,” Casanova said.

Students will have the ability to serve as mentors to the Peace Corps Student Group as well as to members for the Peace Corps Prep Program—a new program at USF aimed at preparing undergraduate students for Peace Corps service, according to Casanova.

“I hope that students are able to transfer some of their knowledge and unique skills learned during their Peace Corps service to their fellow student body and local communities where they will serve,” he said.

Additional benefits include financial assistance in the form of a scholarship from the COPH for $2,000 when students enroll in the Fellows program, renewable in year two as long as the student is making satisfactory progress in their degree program.

Fellows may receive this award twice, for a total of $4,000 of scholarship support.

All Fellows will receive an out-of-state tuition waiver, which covers approximately 58 percent of in-state tuition.

The COPH will prioritize Fellows for graduate assistantships (GA) in their academic departments, and at the discretion and need of each department, according to Casanova.

If selected for a GA, this includes the payment of the health insurance premium, if elected by the student, and also pays stipend for that term. The GA is equivalent to 80 percent of in-state tuition.

“We are excited to have our first group of applicants for fall 2018,” Casanova said. “There are a lot of great opportunities to continue in Peace Corp’s third goal, ‘To promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans,’” Casanova said.

An application to extend this program in the College of Nursing has also been submitted, according to Casanova, with hopes of having a joint program between public health and nursing in the near future.

For more information on becoming a Coverdell Fellow, students may visit the COPH’s Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows website.


Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health