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Peace Corps Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program

Peace Corps patch

The Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program 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.

The College of Social Work became a Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows Partner in 2014, and welcomed the first of the Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows in the fall semester of 2015. The College is excited that the partnership with the Peace Corps fellows program will allow returning volunteers to use the skills they have developed in adapting to new cultures, leading and managing projects, overcoming barriers, and doing a lot with limited resources to make a difference in the lives of people here in the United States.

Eligibility and Advantages

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) who have 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. Since the inception of the Coverdell Fellows Program, nearly 4,000 returned Volunteers have participated in the program across the country.

Rebecca Jackson, Director of Field and International Education, discussed the advantages of participating in the Coverdell program:

“We are excited about the opportunity to affiliate with the Peace Corps and attract Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) to our MSSW and PhD programs.The mission, values, and goals of the Peace Corps and the social work profession are well aligned, especially in our focus on service to underserved populations and communities.We expect that our Coverdell Fellows will make great contributions to the local community through the internships that are required by the Coverdell Fellows, MSSW, and PhD Programs. The presence of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers on our campus will enrich the educational experience of all of our students as they bring their global perspective and real world international service experiences to the classroom.”


female teacher and student having a discussion

Coverdell Fellows in the MSSW Program will receive a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) including full tuition and fees, a stipend and health insurance. Coverdell Fellows in the PhD program will receive nationally competitive financial support for the student’s first three years in the program including tuition, fees, health insurance, and a stipend for living expenses.

The Coverdell Fellows Program in the College of Social Work provides the opportunity to pursue an MSSW or PhD degree. The MSSW degree prepares graduates to work directly with or on behalf of underserved communities through providing direct services, promoting social change and justice, developing programs, and researching best practices. The PhD program prepares graduates to be researchers and academics, developing the knowledge base and teaching the next generation of social workers.

Coverdell Fellows in the MSSW Program may elect to complete one of two specializations, Evidence-Based Interpersonal Practice (EBIP) or Organizational Leadership (OL).

Internship opportunities for MSSW students include a broad range of organizational settings that benefit underserved American communities. Students engage in direct and indirect service to populations at risk across the lifespan in schools, hospitals, mental health and substance abuse treatment settings, crisis services, shelters, and community agencies. MSSW students complete eighteen required credit hours of field education, six credits in the first year (generalist) and twelve credits in the second year (specialization).

The internship requirement for Coverdell fellows in the PhD program will be completed through the required research practicum. Students may engage in research with and for community organizations that benefit underserved communities.


Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who are interested in participating in this program at the University of Tennessee College of Social Work should first apply to the University through the normal admissions process. After receiving confirmation of admission, they should apply to become a Coverdell Fellow as part of the college’s scholarship and fellowship process. Acceptance to the Coverdell program is affirmed through the UT College of Social Work.

MSSW Admissions Requirements include:

  • a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university;
  • undergraduate preparation in the liberal arts;
  • minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.7 out of a possible 4.0; minimum GPA of 3.0 out of a possible 4.0 on any previous graduate work;
  • personal qualifications acceptable for entrance into the professional practice of social work.

Preference is given to applicants with a 3.0 cumulative GPA or above in their undergraduate work and with substantial preparation in the social sciences. Applicants who have earned a BSW or BSSW degree within the past five years from a CSWE accredited program and have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 may apply for the advanced standing program.

PhD Admissions Requirements include: a Master’s degree from an accredited school of social work and post-master’s social work/social welfare practice experience. Applicants who do not meet these requirements will need to achieve equivalent credentials as specified by the PhD Admission Committee.

The admissions process for both programs requires completion of an online application, an application fee, official transcripts for all previous academic work, a professional statement, and three references. The PhD program also requires an employment history, writing sample, and GRE test scores.