Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows at UA COPH

Part 1: Peace Corps!

By Anna Steeves-Reece, MPH (Health Behavior, Health Promotion) & MA (Latin American Studies) ’17, RPCV Nicaragua ’11-‘14

Peace Corps is a unique opportunity that allows qualified U.S. citizens to serve overseas for 27 months in jobs related to health, environment, agriculture, teaching, economic development and more. There are many reasons why people are drawn to Peace Corps. For some, it’s a way to gain two years of professional experience in a field related to their career goals; for others, it’s a chance to travel the world and grow individually. More than anything, however, the mission of Peace Corps is to promote international friendship and understanding.

From 2011 to 2014, I worked as a Maternal and Child Health Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua. During that time, I was partnered with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health and collaborated on projects ranging from reproductive health education, to vaccination campaigns, to training community health workers, to building improved ovens, to hosting my own public health radio show. Now back in the States, I am extremely proud to belong to a community of over 215,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who regularly make innovative contributions to pressing public health and social justice needs—both in the U.S. and globally.

Anna providing fluoride treatment to children in her local community

Although my work in Peace Corps was ultimately what led me to pursue a graduate degree through the UA College of Public Health (MEZCOPH) and will continue to inform my career for years to come, the most memorable parts of my service usually took place outside the formal working environment. The relationships I built, and the laughter, tears and stories I shared with my host family, community, and fellow health Peace Corps Volunteers were the things that truly shaped my character and continue to put a smile on my face whenever I think about Nicaragua.

Want to learn more about how to join the Peace Corps? Contact Anna at pcorps@cals.arizona.edu.

Part 2: Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows

By Rachel Murray, MPH ’15, Family and Child Health – Global Track, RPCV Sierra Leone ’11-‘13

Upon returning to the U.S., RPCVs have the opportunity to complete graduate school through the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows program. Fellows receive financial assistance in exchange for completing internships in underserved American communities. The University of Arizona has had one of the largest Coverdell Fellows program in the country for the past seven years. Since 2000, 321 Fellows have graduated from the program, earning master’s and doctoral degrees from 25 academic departments. Each Fellow is required to contribute 900 hours through internships, community service, professional development and leadership experience, and outreach for U.S. Peace Corps.

The UA College of Public Health has hosted 64 Fellows to date (with 18 of the 69 current Fellows in the MPH program). Fellows have studied in almost every concentration, and many have continued onto the DrPH and PhD programs. Fellows alumni include two of our very own COPH faculty members:

  • Samantha Sabo, DrPH, MPH, Assistant Professor in the Health Promotion Sciences Division, and
  • Stephanie Springer, MPH, Lecturer in the Health Promotion Sciences Division and Assistant Director for Undergraduate Advising.

MEZCOPH/Coverdell Fellows alumni also include:

  • Alyssa Bittenbender, MPH, Program Director, Arizona AIDS Education and Training Center,
  • Michelle Hanson, RN, MPH, Special Programs Manager, Arizona Immunization Program Office, Arizona Department of Health Services, and
  • Jeffrey Silverman, MPH, Oxfam Great Britain.

In addition to contributing to the MEZCOPH mission through internships and community service, Fellows have initiated several of the extracurricular groups in MEZCOPH, including the Social Justice Symposium and the Global Health Alliance.

This year marks a special year for the Fellows – celebrating 15 years at the UA! This upcoming week is Peace Corps Week. We have several events, but the main attraction is the Peace Corps Fair, where you can meet over 120 RPCVs, tour the world, visit a Pacific island village, an African market, and a Latin American bus station. Come ask questions and enjoy the sights, sounds, and stories gathered while living 27 months in another culture.

More information about the fair and other Peace Corps Week events at our website.

To read more about Anna and Rachel’s Peace Corps services, check out their blogs at: https://peacecorpsanna.wordpress.com/ (Anna) and http://rachelamurray.blogspot.com/ (Rachel).

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