Tag: Peace Corps

Peace Corps Informational Meeting Thursday

Brett Heimann, the regional recruiting representative for the Peace Corps, will hold an informational meeting at Michigan Tech at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 21, in Fisher Hall 125. He will talk about the Peace Corps overall and the Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) program. The session is free, and everyone is welcome.

Michigan Tech has eight PCMI programs in four different Colleges and Schools. Graduate students earn a master’s degree with a combination of classes and Peace Corps service overseas. For more information, contact PCMI campus director Kari Henquinet (SS), kbhenqui@mtu.edu, 7-1843.

Published in TechToday

New Graduate Fellowships Lure Returning Peace Corps Volunteers

A new partnership between Michigan Tech and the US Peace Corps will enable returning Peace Corps volunteers to attend graduate school at Michigan Tech while putting their Peace Corps skills to work. Michigan Tech is one of the universities recently selected by the Peace Corps to offer new or expanded Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program graduate degrees, which include scholarships and degree-related internships in underserved American communities.

The new fellowships will support graduate degrees in biological sciences, forestry, applied ecology, forest ecology and management, forest molecular genetics and biotechnology, environmental policy and industrial archaeology. All returned Peace Corps volunteers will be eligible to apply for the Coverdell program. Currently, 12 alumni who received bachelor’s degrees at Michigan Tech are serving in the Peace Corps. They also will be eligible for the new program when they finish their service.

“Michigan Tech is extremely pleased to be selected to participate in the Coverdell Fellows Program,” said Graduate School Dean Jacqueline Huntoon. “With this program, we will continue to strengthen our collaboration with the Peace Corps, building on our existing programs for returned Peace Corps volunteers and students in our Peace Corps Master’s International programs.

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Published in Tech Today by Jenn Donovan, public relations director

Change in Leadership at Peace Corps Master’s International Program

Professor Blair Orr (SFRES) is stepping down as director of Michigan Tech’s Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) program, the nation’s largest. Orr will be replaced by Lecturer Kari Henquinet (SS).

“I am very sorry that Blair will no longer be working with the Graduate School on PCMI and related topics,” said Jackie Huntoon, associate provost and dean of the Graduate School. “His dedication to the PCMI program has been remarkable. Blair has been an outstanding leader and has helped the University attract students who might not have considered Michigan Tech, if it were not for the PCMI program. In addition, he has helped the University attract and better serve other students who have contributed time and effort in service of the United States. The National Service Graduate Tuition Fellowship, which is available to groups of students, including honorably discharged military veterans, was developed under Orr’s guidance, with members of the Air Force and Army ROTC.”

Orr is also a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Lesotho from 1978 to 1981. Orr’s familiarity with the Peace Corps helped Michigan Tech and its students to negotiate agreements and find appropriate placements around the world.

As the new Michigan Tech PCMI campus director, Henquinet will work with the Graduate School to oversee existing PCMI programs and assist in the development of new ones. She will serve as the primary point of contact at Michigan Tech for the Peace Corps. Henquinet earned her PhD in Anthropology from Michigan State, and her research is in the area of international development. Henquinet has been working with PCMI students from across campus for several years, and she will report to the dean of the Graduate School and represent the PCMI programs on the Graduate Faculty Council.

“Kari’s prior involvement with the PCMI programs and students from across campus will be invaluable as she helps the University maintain its record of excellence in this aspect of our graduate offerings,” said Huntoon. “I look forward to working with Kari in her new role.”

Currently there are 67 students from eight different disciplines enrolled in the PCMI program at Michigan Tech.

Published in Tech Today

A Growing Concern

Amber Campbell
Campbell turns bright idea into a "growing" business.
When daylight starts to last well into evening, and Houghton-Hancock area residents get in gardening mode, there’s not a lot of choice at the local discount stores: petunias, impatiens, marigolds, geraniums. Or geraniums, marigolds, impatiens and petunias.  But what if you want to grow campanula, with its delicate, bell-shaped lavender blooms? Or morning glories to attract butterflies? Fennel and cilantro and sweet banana peppers to spice up your summer cooking?

When Amber Campbell, an MBA student and avid gardener, thought about that, she saw a business opportunity. With the help of Tech’s Small Business and Technology Development Center and the MTEC SmartZone’s Entrepreneur Support Center, she has turned a bright idea into a going, growing business: G&A Farmer’s Market and Garden Center on Sharon Avenue in Houghton.

She opened in May in a small plastic greenhouse filled with brilliantly colored bedding plants, feathery herbs and hardy vegetables. Later in the growing season, she plans to add a fruit and vegetable stand, selling fresh, local berries, tomatoes, peppers, green beans and Asian vegetables such as garlic chives and bok choy.

In China, where Campbell grew up, she and her family grew and ate their own fruits and vegetables. “I remember how fresh and good they were,” she says. “I am bringing my own good memories to life here.”  Campbell credits graduate students Fahimeh Baziari and Alex Wohlgemuth from Tech’s Peace Corps Master’s International Program with volunteering to help fence her site, and Tech master gardener Lynn Watson, who “gave me lots of useful advice on gardening.”

For the full story, see Garden.

Published in Tech Today by Jennifer Donovan, director, public relations

Michigan Tech Remains the Nation’s Top Peace Corps Master’s International Graduate School

Michigan Tech ranks as the No. 1 Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) university nationwide for the seventh consecutive year. With 31 PCMI graduate students currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers, Michigan Tech has earned top spot in the 2012 rankings of Peace Corps’ Master’s International and Paul D. Coverdell Fellows graduate schools.

The Peace Corps’ Master’s International program allows students to incorporate Peace Corps service as credit toward their graduate degree. The Coverdell Fellows Program provides returned Peace Corps volunteers with scholarships, academic credit and stipends to earn an advanced degree after they complete their Peace Corps service.

“The heart of the program is the students we attract, not just in numbers, but in quality,” said Professor Blair Orr (SFRES), PCMI director. “They bring an interest in the world at large and the desire to help others. They return from two years in a different country with stories of new friends, new ideas and a different perspective on how things do work and should work. They have succeeded professionally and personally in a different culture. Many of the skills and traits they acquire along the way are also the skills that employers are looking for.”

Michigan Tech became a Master’s International partner in 1995. Offering eight distinct graduate programs affiliated with Peace Corps, Michigan Tech has the largest number of Peace Corps Master’s International programs in the country. They include Applied Science Education, Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, Mechanical Engineering, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, Biological Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Applied Natural Resource Economics, and Forestry.

Michigan Tech’s PCMI graduate students have served in many countries, including Armenia, Belize, Bulgaria, Fiji, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Paraguay, Uganda and Zambia. More than 190 Michigan Tech alumni have served in the Peace Corps overall. There are also students enrolled in the program who are on campus fulfilling the academic portions of their master’s degree, including Megan Abbott, who recently returned from Belize, and Colin Casey, who is back from Uganda.

2012 Top Peace Corps Master’s International institutions:
(The number in parenthesis is the number of students enrolled in the program and serving overseas as of Sept. 30, 2011.)

  • Michigan Technological University (31)
  • Tulane University (27)
  • University of Washington (26)
  • Monterey Institute of International Studies (26)
  • University of South Florida (22)

About the Master’s International Program
Peace Corps partners with more than 80 colleges and universities nationwide to enable students to earn a master’s degree while serving in the Peace Corps. Students begin their studies on campus, serve overseas for two years, then return to school to finish graduate work. As part of the service, volunteers work on projects related to their master’s studies. The program began at Rutgers University–Camden in 1987 and since then, more than 1,000 volunteers have participated. For more information, visit Master’s Program.

About the Peace Corps
Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 9,095 volunteers are working with local communities in 75 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment, and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. For more information, visit Peace Corps.

by Jennifer Donovan, director, public relations
Published in Tech Today

Students take first-place in New Venture Competition

Baisikeli Ugunduzi
Wade Aitken-Palmer (far left) and Ben Mitchell (second from right) show their winnings at the New Venture Competition.

Some ideas just stick in your mind. At the Bob Mark Memorial Elevator Pitch Competition last November, Ben Mitchell presented his idea for fixing bicycle tires in Africa, so villagers could make a living. It was simple and meaningful, and we were floored. Six months later, so was everyone else.

He and Wade Aitken-Palmer took first-place in the New Venture Competition held recently at Central Michigan University. Their idea, called Baisikeli Ugunduzi (Swahili for “modern bicycle”), captured $30,000 for first prize and another $10,000 for Best Social Venture, for sustainability and social impact, among other reasons. Their invention is a tube that eliminates flat tires.

Mitchell, a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, and Aitken-Palmer, a student in the Applied Natural Resource Economics Peace Corps Master’s International program, have been working on the business idea since last year, and Mitchell said the inspiration began with his stint in the Peace Corps a couple of years before that. Thanks to the big win, he is planning a trip to Kenya in May to begin with more market testing.

“We are working with bicycle taxi drivers, who can go through many tubes in a month,” Mitchell said. “The tubes will have to be produced in Taiwan, as there are no production facilities in Kenya.” Assembling will take place in Africa, however, and that will create some jobs. “Our first hire will be a mechanic,” he said. “And he could do some modifications as well.”

When they began, Mitchell said he had some catching up to do on the business side of things, but they did have a more thought-out design and a more developed prototype than most, thanks to their engineering backgrounds. And he has high hopes for the future. “Some 50 million sub-Saharan Africans depend on bicycles,” he said. “As our mission says, we work with mechanics and bicycle taxi unions to design, produce and distribute products that add value to working bicycles and improve the livelihoods of bicycle taxi drivers, messengers and those who earn a living on their bicycles.”

Mitchell also pointed out Central Michigan’s role in hosting the event. “They did a tremendous job coordinating the whole event, with all the judges and student teams,” he said. “It was very well orchestrated.” Central has also invited Baisikeli Ugunduzi back to talk about how it all develops in the future.

Peace Corps Volunteer Tackles A Sensitive Women’s Health Problem in Uganda

RUMPS Community Partners
RUMPS Community Partners

When Stacey Frankenstein-Markon discovered that girls in Uganda often used rags, old socks or wads of newspapers to do the job of sanitary napkins, she was shocked. She was even more horrified to realize that purchasing commercial pads was an impossible dream for most of them, since they come from families of subsistence farmers making about $1 a day in disposable income.

“Disposable pads cost $1 for an 8-pack,” says the 25-year-old Peace Corps volunteer, who with her husband, Tony Markon, is serving in Uganda as part of Michigan Tech’s Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) program in applied science education. “If a family has three daughters who need pads, that family would have to spend 20 percent of their income just on menstrual pads. Who can afford to do that?”

The pad problem also was leading girls to stay away from school, fearing that they might stain their clothes and be badgered by boys, Frankenstein-Markon said. Eventually, they fall so far behind that they have to drop out.

But thanks to the inventiveness of another Peace Corps volunteer who had served in the eastern Ugandan region just before the Markons got there in 2010, the Michigan Tech student has been able to help hundreds of girls practice better hygiene while they learn about menstruation, their bodies and women’s health. And not incidentally, stay in school.

She is doing it with RUMPS. The RUMPS (Re-Useable Menstrual Pads) project teaches girls to sew locally available toweling into washable pads. Before they start stitching, they learn about puberty, sex, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The Peace Corps volunteer and her community partners answer questions and encourage honest discussion about matters most of the girls have never considered mentioning in public.

With the help of their three Ugandan partners–Betty Adio, Alice Mundaka and Deborah Nabirye–Frankenstein-Markon has reached more than 1,800 girls, women and men. Adio is now reaching out to another 3,000 elementary school girls. Word is spreading, and seven other Peace Corps volunteers have developed RUMPS projects in their communities.

“I’ve cut out 3,600 RUMPS pads myself,” says Frankenstein-Markon. “I have spent 180 hours using scissors, bandaged six blisters and swept up more tiny bits of towel fluff than I ever imagined could exist.”

In October 2010, two faculty members visited the Markons and the RUMPS project. Brad Baltensperger, chair of the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences at and program director of the PCMI Applied Science Education Program, and Casey Huckins, an associate professor of biological sciences who heads the University’s new PCMI in biological sciences, spent a week in Uganda to discuss the graduate students’ research, to observe them teaching and to learn more about the experiences of Peace Corps volunteers.

“Stacey made a rousing presentation about women’s bodies and menstrual health to several hundred high school girls packed into a large classroom,” Baltensperger says “She was animated and direct, and she used innovative ways to get and maintain the attention of her audience.”

One of Baltensperger’s and Huckins’ fondest memories of their African trip is sitting around a pot of warm millet beer with several teachers at the end of the day. “Casey and I both joined in drinking from the communal container through three-foot long straws and talked about the challenges faced by teachers in Uganda,” Baltensperger recalls.

Frankenstein-Markon’s work has not gone unrecognized. For International Women’s Day earlier this month, the Peace Corps in Uganda nominated her for her efforts to “empower girls.” She was one of three winners from Africa recognized by the Peace Corps worldwide.

How do Ugandans respond to Americans broaching such a sensitive subject? “Overall, every community I have visited has reacted positively,” Frankenstein-Markon says. “In Uganda today, people are trying to overcome traditional taboos. I have found that talking about menstrual health has opened the door for other, deeper topics. I start by talking about body changes. Then I move on to how a woman becomes pregnant.”

Sometimes the question-and-answer component of RUMPS sessions does run into cultural roadblocks. She recalls one man saying, “Madam, how can I ask you about sex when my niece is in the audience?” Also, “most Ugandans do not want their children to hear about family planning,” Frankenstein-Markon says.

But she is far from discouraged. “For every five shy Ugandans, there is always one courageous woman who says, “Ladies, let’s talk about the clitoris,” another who asks, ‘Madam, I want to use family planning. What can I do?’ People want this information, and we can help them get it.”

A biological sciences major who earned her bachelor of science from Michigan Tech in 2008, Frankenstein-Markon heard about PCMI when she was a junior. When she learned that PCMI was about to start a program in applied science education, she had no doubts. “To be able to join the Peace Corps while earning a master’s degree was a no-brainer,” she says. “It is such a unique opportunity and environment to do your research.”

Next fall the Markons will be back at Michigan Tech to complete their master’s degree work. And then? “We may end up abroad again,” she says. Judging by her passion for her efforts in Uganda that would be no surprise.

by Jennifer Donovan, director, public relations
Published in Tech Today

Peace Corps Volunteers Talk about Their Experiences

Graduate students Patricia Butler and Michelle Cisz (both of SFRES) will be at the Portage Lake District Library from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 28, to present their experiences as Peace Corps volunteers.

Butler was a volunteer in Armenia, and Cisz volunteered in Paraguay. Both participated in Tech’s Peace Corps Master’s International Program that allows students to earn a master’s degree while serving in the Peace Corps. Professor Blair Orr (SFRES), is one of program coordinators, and has volunteered in Lesotho.

Slides of Armenia, Paraguay, and Lesotho will be shown. The presenters will describe their experiences in the countries where they volunteered, discuss the projects they worked on and read or tell a folk tale from each country. There will also be displays of items or photos from the countries they visited. Orr will also talk about the Peace Corps in general and provide information on how to join.

This presentation is a part of the Library’s Summer Reading Program, “Reading Takes You Around the World.”

Library programs are free to the public. For more information, contact Chris Alquist at 482-4570, or visit Library.

Published in Tech Today.

Michigan Tech Tops the Nation in Peace Corps Master’s International Volunteers Again

Michigan Tech once again has more Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) graduate students actively serving as Peace Corps volunteers than any other college or university in the nation. The University has 32 PCMI students currently on assignments. There are also a number of students on campus fulfilling the academic portions of their master’s degrees.

The national Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., announced today that the University has earned the top spot for the sixth consecutive year. Tulane University placed second, and the University of Washington was third.

“Michigan Tech’s PCMI program is successful because it spans such a wide range of opportunities that Tech has available,” said Professor Blair Orr (SFRES), director of PCMI programs. “We have a large international community on campus and a wide range of activities that complement the Peace Corps. Groups like Engineers Without Borders, NOSOTROS (a Hispanic-Latin cultural organization) and Global City add breadth across campus and make this a good place to be in a Peace Corps Master’s International program.”

Tech has many faculty and staff actively involved in the eight PCMI programs, as well as community members and the graduate students themselves, Orr continued. “The students are interested in more than one academic discipline, and we see them taking classes outside their home departments. They know those courses will benefit them while they are in the Peace Corps and over the course of their entire careers.”

Michigan Tech became a PCMI partner in 1995, eight years after the program began. Offering eight distinct programs in eight different departments, Tech also has the largest number of Master’s International programs in the country. They include applied natural resource economics, biological sciences, civil and environmental engineering, forest resources and environmental science, mechanical engineering, natural hazards mitigation (geology), rhetoric and technical communication and science education.

Over the Peace Corps’s 50 years, 185 Michigan Tech alumni have served as volunteers, more than half from Michigan. PCMI graduate students have served all over the world, including Armenia, Belize, Bulgaria, Fiji, Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nepal, Paraguay and Zambia, to name a just few.

The Peace Corps partners with more than 80 colleges and universities across the nation to enable graduate students to earn a master’s degree while serving in the Peace Corps. PCMI students begin their graduate studies on campus, serve overseas for two years, doing volunteer work on projects related to their graduate studies. Then they return to school to complete their graduate work.

PCMI programs attract top-notch students and help the Peace Corps meet the worldwide demand for highly skilled professionals by providing countries in need with qualified volunteers.

“Every year, hundreds of Peace Corps volunteers pair meaningful service with graduate studies through Peace Corps’ Master’s International and Fellows/USA programs,” said Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams. “After completing Peace Corps service, volunteers return to the United States as global citizens, with leadership, cross-cultural understanding, and language and technical skills that position them well for a successful graduate school experience.”

Fellows/USA is a program that provides scholarships, academic credit and stipends to volunteers who have already completed Peace Corps service when they decide to enroll in a graduate program.

President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 77 countries.

by Jennifer Donovan, director of public relations
Published in Tech Today