Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program

For Returning Peace Corps Volunteers

When You're Ready to Go to Graduate School, We're Ready to Help

Brooke learning to danceThe Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program (formerly known as Fellows/USA) is a graduate fellowship program that offers financial assistance to returned Peace Corps Volunteers. All Fellows complete internships in underserved American communities, allowing them to bring home, and expand upon, the skills they learned as Volunteers. These skills in adapting to new cultures, developing and managing projects, dealing with language barriers, and leveraging limited resources attract the attention of prospective schools. Since the inception of the Coverdell Fellows Program, nearly 4,000 returned Volunteers have participated in the program and made a difference across the country.

Program offerings at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

Why should you become a fellow?

Erin with school childrenFor many Peace Corps Fellows, the Coverdell Fellows Program is an opportunity to combine their academic and professional endeavors with their desire to work in underserved communities. At the same time, it allows the Fellow to reintegrate into a community and do something meaningful after his or her experience abroad.

Other benefits to Peace Corps Fellows include:

  • Financial Assistance: Fellows receive financial aid that may include tuition reduction, full scholarships, or stipends.
  • Professional Experience: Through their internships, Fellows apply what they learn in the classroom to a professional setting. In some cases, Fellows parlay their internships into full-time jobs after graduation.
  • Helping Others: In addition to gaining professional experience, Fellows provide much-needed assistance to some of the United States' most underserved communities.
  • Furthering the Peace Corps Mission: By sharing their experiences in classrooms and in communities, Fellows help fulfill Peace Corps' Third Goal of promoting a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
  • Choice: Each partner university has designed its own program. A sample of options includes an accelerated program and an international internship after completing the domestic internship.
  • Federal jobs: For recently returned RPCVs, your noncompetitive eligibility (NCE) status to apply for federal jobs may, at the hiring agency's prerogative, be extended up to three years from the date of your close of service if you are a full-time student

What Do Fellows Do?

In addition to pursuing a degree in one of the many fields offered, Fellows complete a degree-related internship in an underserved American community. While internships vary from program to program, they are a way for Fellows to make a significant impact on their new communities. Some Fellows also have the opportunity to do an international internship after completing a domestic internship. Read more about Fellows' internships, and the organizations where they work.

Where Do Fellows Study?

The Coverdell Fellows Program partners with graduate schools like UAF. There are currently more than 60 university partners in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Fellows work in the communities around their schools, including rural areas, American Indian tribal lands, cities, and suburbs. The Peace Corps regularly adds new partner schools and programs to the Coverdell Fellows Program network.

When Are Volunteers Eligible to Be Fellows?

Returned Volunteers who have satisfactorily completed their Peace Corps service have lifetime eligibility for the Coverdell Fellows Program. Volunteers may choose to participate immediately following their Peace Corps service, or any time thereafter. This means there are Fellows of all ages and professional backgrounds. Whether they are building directly on their Peace Corps service or preparing for a career change, returned Volunteers should take advantage of the numerous benefits of the Coverdell Fellows Program.

How the Coverdell Fellows Program Started

Matt teaching how to plant a treePeace Corps Fellows have been serving local communities for more than two decades. The Coverdell Fellows Program is the brainchild of Dr. Beryl Levinger, a Volunteer in Colombia from 1967 to 1969 and former researcher with the Institute of International Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. She realized that returned Volunteers had the specialized skills sought by the New York Board of Education in the early 1980s. They are:

  Innovative and practical ideas about education

  Sensitivity to cultural differences

  Tenaciousness in adverse conditions

In cooperation with the Peace Corps, Levinger and a team of colleagues proposed a program that utilized returned Volunteers to fill classroom vacancies. In 1985, Teachers College launched a pilot program to prepare returned Volunteers as teachers in New York City public schools.

Early funding for the Coverdell Fellows Program came from various grants and foundations. Today funding comes entirely from participating universities and their partner organizations.

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