Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Peace Corps phasing out Master's International program

The Peace Corps has announced plans to end its Master’s International program at all U.S. colleges, including the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Erin Kelly, the first University of Alaska Fairbanks' first Master's
 International graduate (2009),  returns to El Salvador regularly to visit
the friends she made. Kelly works as an agriculture labor specialist for the
New York Department of Labor.
UAF received word in late April that the last group of students in the program would be enrolled in September. Current students, including those who will begin the program by September 2016, will not be affected by the decision. Under the arrangement, students begin their master’s degree at UAF, apply to the Peace Corps and, if accepted, volunteer for 27 months and then return to complete their graduate degree. The program serves as a training ground for Peace Corps volunteers.

Associate Professor Susan Todd, who coordinates the program for SNRE, received a letter from Peace Corps Office of University Programs, which said the Peace Corps reviewed the 29-year-old program and decided to end it because of the number of highly qualified applicants it already receives.

The Peace Corps Master’s International Program has been offered in Alaska through School of Natural Resources and Extension and the Department of Alaska Native Studies and Rural Development. SNRE started participating in 2004.

Todd said that five SNRE students with the Master’s International program are currently serving in the Philippines, Paraguay, Togo and in Mexico. Another student will go to Malawi in 2017. Two other graduate students were accepted into the program this spring and will begin their studies this fall.

Altogether, 13 SNRE students have participated in the program. Students must attend at least two semesters at UAF before serving in the Peace Corps. Typically, they work on their research project in the country, then return to UAF to finish their studies and their thesis project.

“It’s contributed a lot to the school,” Todd said. In the classes, she said, students bring a global perspective. “They have that experience that enriches the whole program,” she said. “It’s been great.”

A second Peace Corps program, the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program, will continue at UAF. Under this graduate fellowship program, returned Peace Corps volunteers participate in internships in underserved communities and receive financial assistance while working toward a master’s degree. Affiliated programs at UAF include the Master of Science in natural resources management and the Master of Arts in rural development.

The Coverdell Program began in 2010, and four former Peace Corps volunteers who served in Mali, the Philippines, Panama and Sierra Leone participated in the program through SNRE. One SNRE graduate student is currently participating. He served in Sierra Leone but had to leave the country a month early due to the ebola epidemic. For his research project, he is developing a climate adaption plan for three or four Western Alaska communities.

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