UAB's School of Education (SOE) has been hosting the Coverdell Fellows program since 2016. The Coverdell program is for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who, upon completing two years of overseas service, have returned to the United States and now wish to pursue a graduate degree.

At UAB, Coverdell Fellows can earn a graduate degree in English as a Second Language (ESL) by pursuing a Master of Arts in Education (MAEd) or an Educational Specialist degree (EdS). The ESL master's has three tracks: traditional, alternative, and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). The traditional track is a master's degree with advanced P-12 teacher certification; it is for applicants who already hold valid teacher certification from any state in any teaching field and who wish to become certified to teach ESL. The alternative track is a master's degree with initial P-12 teacher certification; it is for applicants who do not already hold state-issued teacher certification and who wish to enter the P-12 teaching profession by becoming an ESL teacher. And, the TESOL track is a master's degree for applicants who wish to teach ESL to adult learners; it does not lead to P-12 certification. Coverdell Fellows who already hold a master's degree in ESL or a related field should consider pursuing the Educational Specialist (EdS) degree for enhancing their career options and also for becoming more competitive when seeking admission to a doctoral program.

To learn how you, as a Coverdell Fellow, can use your Peace Corps service towards an ESL graduate degree, contact Dr. Susan Spezzini at or (205) 934-8357. Dr. Spezzini is Professor of ESL Teacher Education and Program Director for ESL and Secondary Education in the SOE's Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Dr. Spezzini had served as a PCV in Paraguay ('76-'79) and now coordinates the Peace Corps program in UAB's SOE.

Daniel Wheeler square    Susan Schell 
 Daniel Wheeler
Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho
English/Community Health Instructor
Daniel's story
   Susan Schell
Peace Corps Volunteer in Macedonia
Vocational High School English Teacher
Susan's story


  • MAEd/ESL degree
      • Traditional Track (33-36 credit hours): leads to advanced P-12 ESOL certification
        • To pursue the Traditional Track, students must live in the greater Birmingham area
      • Alternative Track (44 credit hours): leads to initial P-12 ESOL certification
        • To pursue the Alternative Track, students must live in the greater Birmingham area
      • TESOL Track (31-33 credit hours): for teaching adults (no certification)
        • Students can pursue the TESOL Track through a blended approach
  • EdS degree in TESOL (30 credit hours): for career advancement (no certification)
    • Students can take a blended approach or do the EdS-TESOL online with a short summer residency
May 1 Submit degree-seeking application to UAB Graduate School 
May 31 Participate in an interview with the SOE selection committee for Coverdell Fellows 
June 15  Be admitted to the Graduate School and accepted as a Coverdell Fellow
June 30 Submit tutor employment application to the INTO UAB Learning Resource Center

Coverdell Fellows are encouraged to work on campus as language tutors for international students. As a tutor, you will work at the INTO UAB Learning Resource Center (LRC), which is on the second floor of the Sterne Library, right next to the School of Education. Based on your time availability, you are scheduled to tutor during hours when the LRC is open, which is Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm. As a language tutor, you can expect to work about 15 hours per week and earn about $12 per hour.

To seek employment as a tutor, you must first email the LRC Coordinator, Ms. Meghan Gilliland, at You should explain that you will be pursuing the MA-TESOL as a Peace Corps Coverdell Fellow and ask for a tutor application. Be sure to attach a copy of your resume/CV.

  • As a Coverdell Fellow, your residency will be classified as in-state. Regardless of your home state, you will be eligible for paying in-state tuition. NOTE: UAB's in-state tuition is approximately 40% of its out-of-state tuition.
  • If you pursue the MA-TESOL track, you will be able to complete your master's degree in 3 semesters (12  months). This time frame facilitates a one-year lease and, by doing so, minimizes your housing expenses.
  • Varied and affordable housing in Birmingham's Southside neighborhood, 3-10 blocks from the School of Education. Most students who live in this area walk to campus and do not purchase a UAB parking permit.
  • Varied course delivery formats: professional learning communities, totally online platforms, blended courses (online alternating with on-ground), Saturday clases, intensive summer institutes, and integrated practicum experiences as of the first semester. Included in these practicum experiences is teaching the Community English Classes that are hosted by the SOE.
  • Course progression in a cohort manner with personalized support from instructors.
  • Learner-centered instruction within a standards-based, inquiry-focused curriculum that fosters collaboration, reflection, and application.
  • From theory to practice with state-of-art teaching strategies such as interactive peer-to-peer oral techniques.
  • Intimate atmosphere of a small program in a large university that is situated within 15 minutes of an international airport.
  • Excellent health care available on campus and accessible student health insurance.
  • Birmingham chapter of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers for fun and camaraderie. 
UAB's Peace Corps prep program
UAB on the Peace Corps site
UAB School of Nursing
UAB School of Public Health
Greater Birmingham Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (GBRPCV)

UAB has 11 schools and colleges on a campus comprised of 90+ city blocks that is both metropolitan and traditional. Having started in 1945 as a medical school and in 1969 as an autonomous university, UAB is now the largest single employer in the state of Alabama. With 23,000+ employees and 20,000+ students from 101 countries, UAB has been described by The Princeton Review as a "mecca of multiculturalism" and was ranked among the top 10 U.S. colleges and universities for diversity for three consecutive years. UAB was also named for three consecutive years to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a university can achieve for commitment to civic engagement and service learning. UAB's growth as a world-renowned research university and medical center has driven the social, cultural, and economic revival of Birmingham. Additional information about UAB is available at