The Peace Corps Master's International program at the University of Minnesota is a challenging and exciting way to link academic experience with international development service. This program provides a unique opportunity to work in the field on international development issues while getting a M.S. degree. The degree is offered through an agreement between the United States Peace Corps and the Natural Resources Science and Management Graduate Program at the University of Minnesota.
The Peace Corps Master's International Program is designed so that a student spends the first year at the University taking courses applicable to the Peace Corps and master's degree. The student then spends the next two years with the Peace Corps as a volunteer, during which time a portion of the student's time is applied toward research credit (e.g., Plan B paper 2 to 6 credits or Plan A thesis for 10 credits). Following Peace Corps service, the student returns to the University for a semester or two to complete degree requirements for graduation.
The Master's International program represents an incredible opportunity to develop professionally and grow personally. The experience can give a student useful experience and valuable training. A Master's International Volunteer needs to combine creativity, persistence, patience and flexibility to be successful. Conducting masters work in the developing world can be very challenging. Lack of resources, information and poor communication are common issues that students face. In addition, project ideas constantly need to be reevaluated due to changing circumstances. While these issues may seem to be formidable tasks to overcome they are a part of the reward. Mastering these issues makes the student able to deal with the realities of international development as they apply to natural resources.
Since the uncertainties of conducting graduate work complicate research design and methods, the University of Minnesota's Master's International program is flexible to the needs of its students. To facilitate flexibility, the degree requirements for a Master of Science in Natural Resources Science and Management are flexible enough that most concerns can be addressed. In addition, the University provides a relevant and useful framework to international development work.
Most of the students who have gone through the program have worked with the Peace Corps as Agroforestry Extension Volunteers. Other possible positions are as Social Forestry, Parks and Wildlife, Environmental Education, and Forestry Volunteers. Master's International students need to conduct projects as a part of the Master's degree requirements. Projects tend to evolve considerably from the time the students arrive in country to the time that they leave; once again, flexibility is stressed. Below are a few examples, all were from Agroforestry Extension Volunteers.
One Master's International student interviewed three subsequent groups of volunteers about their abilities to achieve Peace Corps' project goals in Paraguay. From these interviews she developed a series of recommendations to make the Peace Corps' Paraguay Agroforestry Extension Project more successful.
Another student studied the effects of a locally produced organic pesticide on traditional crop pests in Thailand. This information was useful in making recommendations to other farm groups and Peace Corps as to how the technology might be used and transferred most effectively.
A third student documented a participatory method to assess subsistence farmers' values in Paraguay. He then used it to evaluate new and traditional farm technologies with a group of farmers in an effort to help plan their farming systems. This information is useful for other extension specialists as they try to adapt new and old ideas to different social and environmental conditions.
To participate in the Peace Corps Master's International Program at the University of Minnesota a potential student needs to:
In addition to the applications, a potential student needs to identify and contact potential faculty advisors.
For more information about the Peace Corps Master's International program contact:
Director of Graduate Studies in Natural Resources Science and Management
University of Minnesota
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
105 Green Hall
1530 Cleveland Avenue North
St. Paul, MN 55108-6112