Tag: Peace Corps

Peace Corps Master’s International Volunteers Try Changing the World–One Step at a Time

When graduate students Kristina Denison, Callie Bertsch and Michelle Cisz left the wooded hills of the Michigan Tech campus to serve as Peace Corps volunteers, they headed to countries that couldn’t be more diverse: Zambia, Bulgaria and Paraguay. But the lessons they learned in Michigan Tech’s Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) program were remarkably similar.

“I was going to Africa to change the world,” says Denison, who spent three years in Zambia, a landlocked little country in southern Africa, between Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “I learned that you have to count the small steps, to be satisfied with planting a seed.”

Bertsch expected to bring “some great innovation” to the village of Gurmen in Bulgaria. But she soon realized she was having her greatest impact in a more subjective arena: people’s attitudes. “We’re so glad you came to live with us because you’re not at all like we thought Americans were,” the Bulgarian villagers kept telling her.

Halfway around the world, in the small South American country of Paraguay, Cisz was busy readjusting her expectations too. “I had big goals, but I had to take small steps,” she says. “It was a very humbling experience.”

All three women are working toward their Master of Science in Forest Ecology and Management. They wanted to travel, to serve and to learn by doing–the Michigan Tech way–so they joined a program that lets graduate students combine course work with volunteer service overseas in the Peace Corps. With eight PCMI programs in four different colleges and schools, Michigan Tech has more active Peace Corps volunteers than any other university in the nation.

See Tech Today for the complete news story.

Rewarding Those Who Have Served the US

Michigan Tech has instituted a new fellowship program for graduate students who have served in the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or the military.

In its first semester of operation, the National Service Graduate Fellowship covers as much as 30 percent of tuition, but its benefits extend beyond financial assistance.

“Through this program, we are getting more nontraditional students to campus who bring a different perspective to the classroom,” said Professor Blair Orr (SFRES). “They have a lot to contribute from their experiences.”

Orr is in charge of Tech’s Peace Corps Master’s International program, one of the three programs involved in the initiative.

Lt. Col. Kerry Beaghan, of the Air Force ROTC program, agrees that the type of student the program attracts is “very atypical.”

“They’re older military personnel, who maybe tried college earlier in their lives,” she says. “Or they might have enlisted right out of high school, and now they are interested in an education and must juggle family and school and financing. This program helps them.”

For the military personnel, the new post-911 GI Bill includes a housing allowance at some schools and, depending on the level of the service, their spouses or children might also benefit from the tuition reduction, Beaghan says.

In the planning for the military component of the fellowship, Beaghan credits Dallas Eubanks, former head of Michigan Tech’s Army ROTC, for his help in crafting this new program.

“We had to decide whom do we include and what to include,” she says.

Natiffany Mathews, a master’s student in industrial archaeology, did her AmeriCorps service on the New Mexico/Texas border, in poor school districts, and she chose Michigan Tech because of the fellowship and the opportunity to teach and do research.

“It’s been a different type of experience–awesome–especially the teaching,” she says. “With college courses, we are constantly changing things up. It’s very dynamic.”

Overall, the fellowship was paramount for her. “I don’t think I could have come here without it,” she says. “We needed the extra funding, and my husband was having trouble finding work here. We had expenses moving here, too.”

She had visited the area previously and fell in love with the people, especially Associate Professor Tim Scarlett (Social Sciences), and the industrial archaeology program. Another draw: Tech treated her in a fair and timely manner. “Another school never returned my phone calls and was always slow responding to emails.”

Jacque Smith, director of marketing for the Graduate School, says the fellowship fills a gap. “Graduate students in programs that focus primarily on career preparation, instead of research, often have to fund more of their education themselves. As the costs keep increasing, it can become harder for these students to attend grad school.”

Mariah Maggio, who was in Peace Corps Masters International Program and is a recipient of a fellowship, didn’t have any viable options to return to graduate school two years after her volunteer service in the Philippines ended.

“With the limited financial resources resulting from life as a Peace Corps volunteer, followed by work with a grassroots international organization, the fellowship was a decisive factor in my being able to enroll in Tech’s environmental policy master’s program,” she explains.

Maggio is thankful that the fellowship recognizes her service. As well, she adds, being a returned Peace Corps volunteer on the campus is a very rich experience because of the community and camaraderie that exist among those who have volunteered.

“You can not only reflect on your experience with fellow returned volunteers, but you also engage with prospective volunteers and really build on the work the Peace Corps is doing,” she says.

“We are fortunate that Tech recognizes returned Peace Corps volunteers as eligible candidates for the fellowship,” she adds. “To be valued after volunteering in such a way that supports returning to graduate school is an amazing initiative of this University and reinforces the ideal that Michigan Tech is playing an important role in fostering leaders for a global future.”

Jacqueline Huntoon, dean of the Graduate School, says the fellowship helps the University achieve its strategic plan, which includes an effort to attract students who bring diverse perspectives to the campus and the program.

“They demonstrate to others the opportunities for providing service to their communities, the nation and the world,” she concludes.

by Dennis Walikainen, senior editor

Published in Tech Today

Native American Resident Scholar Lamon Fellowship

The School for Advanced Research on the Human Experience (SAR) awards approximately six Resident Scholar Fellowships each year to scholars who have completed their research and analysis and who need time to think and write about topics important to the understanding of humankind. Resident scholars may approach their research from anthropology or from related fields such as history, sociology, art, and philosophy.

The Katrin H. Lamon Fellowship is available for a Native American scholar, either pre- or postdoctoral, working in either the humanities or the sciences.

For more information please visit: http://sarweb.org/index.php?resident_scholars

Inter-American Foundation (IAF) Grassroots Development Fellowship Program

IAF Fellowships are available to currently registered students who have advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. in the social sciences, physical sciences, technical fields and the professions as related to grassroots development issues. Applications for clinical research in the health field will NOT be considered.

Awards are based on both development and scholarly criteria. Proposals should offer a practical orientation to field-based information. In exceptional cases the IAF will support research reflecting a primary interest in macro questions of politics and economics but only as they relate to the environment of the poor. The Fellowship Program complements IAF’s support for grassroots development in Latin America and the Caribbean, and preference for those applicants whose careers or research projects are related to topics of greatest interest to the IAF.

IAF’s Fellowships provide support for Ph.D. candidates to conduct dissertation research in Latin America and the Caribbean on topics related to grassroots development. Funding is for between four and 12 months. The Inter-American Foundation expects to award up to 15 Doctoral Field Research Fellowships in 2011. Research during the 2011-2012 cycle must be initiated between June 1, 2011 and May 31, 2012.

  • Round-trip economy-class transportation to the field research site from the Fellow’s primary residence. Fellows must comply with the Fly America Act.
  • A research allowance of up to $3,000, pro-rated monthly.
  • A stipend of $1,500 per month for up to 12 months.
  • Accident and sickness insurance
  • Attendance at a required “mid-year” Grassroots Development Conference to discuss each Fellow’s progress with members of the IAF’s academic review committee and meet with IAF and IIE staff.

For more information please visit:


Michael J. Hogan Foreign Lanugage Fellowship

The Hogan Fellowship of up to $4,000 is intended to promote research in foreign language sources by graduate students. The fellowship is intended to defray the costs of studying foreign languages needed for research.   The award is announced formally at the SHAFR luncheon held during the annual meeting of the American Historical Association.

Applicants must be graduate students researching some aspect of U.S. foreign relations history. Membership in SHAFR is required.

Deadline October 1, 2010

Michigan Tech Lauded by the Peace Corps

Michigan Tech has the largest Peace Corps Master’s International Program (PCMI) in the nation, with 55 students enrolled in seven programs. But it isn’t just the quantity of volunteers that brought the national manager of the PCMI program to the University Tuesday; it’s also their quality.

“We’re fortunate to have Michigan Tech people involved in Peace Corps,” said Eric Goldman. “They are premier Peace Corps volunteers, and we extend our thanks to you for what you have created. It’s astonishing.”

“No one comes close to your commitment and accomplishment,” he said. “Not only are you highly regarded at Peace Corps, but there are countries around the world that want Michigan Tech Peace Corps volunteers.”

Goldman also expressed Peace Corps’ gratitude to Portage Health, which provides a discount of up to 30 percent toward the cost of Michigan Tech’s PCMI students’ medical examinations. “To be a Peace Corps volunteer requires a rigorous medical process,” said Goldman. “It’s a considerable expense, and Peace Corps only provides a small amount. I don’t know of anyone besides Portage Health who has done this. It’s a fantastic example of corporate social responsibility.”

Under the direction of forestry professor Blair Orr, Michigan Tech started its first PCMI program in 1995, the Loret Miller Ruppe Master’s International Program in Forestry. Since then, a total of 155 students have enrolled and six more programs have been established, in civil and environmental engineering; applied natural resource economics; natural hazards mitigation (geology); civil and environmental engineering; science education; rhetoric and technical communication; and mechanical engineering.

President Glenn Mroz accepted a plaque from Goldman that expresses the Peace Corps’ appreciation to the University community. It reads, “Your extraordinary commitment to, and accomplishment in, the Master’s International program has made significant contributions to the lives of thousands of people around the world.”

Volunteer Julie Herrick had recently returned from her Peace Corps assignment in Panama and is completing her master’s. For her, the program offered a way to conduct research and get involved in community service. “I wanted a practical way to apply what I knew as a geologist in context. It was a commitment,” she said. “But it was the right way to go about this.”

Mroz was involved with the program from the start and recalled the first class heading out to Camp Alberta, where they learned “guts forestry” in preparation for their Peace Corps assignment. “From those five students, we’ve grown to the largest program in the US,” he said.

The program also benefits the University by bringing a diverse mix of students to campus, where they undergo two semesters of intensive academic preparation before entering Peace Corps. “It’s not high paying,” Mroz said. “But as an experience, Peace Corps is priceless. They learn that you can make a significant impact on people’s lives for a long time to come.”

Both Mroz and Goldman emphasized the role Orr has played in establishing and nurturing Michigan Tech’s Peace Corps program and noted his tenacity and willingness to speak his mind. “Blair is an absolute blessing,” said Goldman. “He does a superb job of keeping the Peace Corps honest.”

Tech and Portage Health to Offer Medical Discount for Peace Corps Students

Published in Tech Today

Graduate students in Michigan Tech’s Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) programs will be able to get their required medical exams and lab tests at a major discount, thanks to a new partnership between the University and Portage Health.

The health care provider will offer PCMI students at Tech a 20 percent discount on any balance they owe after insurance payments for exams and tests required by the Peace Corps, plus an additional 10 percent prompt-pay discount, for a total discount of 30 percent.

That can add up to quite a sum. “The personalized medical exams and tests that the Peace Corps requires of each applicant can, in the most expensive cases, cost up to $5,000,” said Blair Orr (SFRES), director of the University’s seven PCMI programs. “The Peace Corps only reimburses $125 to $290, so the cost can be a serious obstacle to many students who would like to enroll in the program.”

Portage Health is pleased to be able to offer the discount, said Brian Donahue, chief financial officer. “We have a strong history of collaboration with Michigan Tech, and this is an excellent program that we are proud to be able to support.”

Michigan Tech President Glenn D. Mroz praised Portage Health for the partnership. “Each volunteer goes abroad to make a positive influence in people’s lives,” he said. “We are grateful that the people of Portage Health recognize the importance of facilitating the global reach of our Peace Corps Master’s International programs at Tech by making a positive contribution to our student volunteers’ lives.”

The PCMI programs accept approximately 20 new students a year, a number that Orr hopes to see increase to approximately 35.

Michigan Tech Offers S-STEM Scholarship

Michigan Tech’s S-STEM Scholarship is awarded  to qualified U.S. graduate students enrolled in:

  • PhD Program in Environmental Engineering and Civil Engineering
  • Peace Corps Master’s International MS in Environmental Engineering and Civil Engineering
  • MS Program in Environmental Engineering, Environmental Engineering Science and Civil Engineering

The scholarship is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

For more information visit: http://www.sfi.mtu.edu/s-stem/