It may not conform to the stereotype of graduate school, but for growing numbers of UW students, getting their master’s degree involves a two-year stint overseas in the Peace Corps.
Peace Corps Deputy Director Josephine “Jody” Olsen will help inaugurate the latest two such UW programs at campus events on Monday, March 1, the 44th anniversary of the Peace Corps’ founding.
Starting next fall, students in both the UW College of Forest Resources and the School of Public Health and Community Medicine can earn a Peace Corps Master’s International Degree. They will head to developing nations to delve into forestry and natural resource management, or health initiatives such as HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
The Evans School of Public Affairs began to offer the Peace Corps option two years ago, and is about to welcome back its first Peace Corps Master’s International Program student, Robin Rask, from Grenada. The Evans degree specializes in leadership of non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, that do humanitarian and development work.
“The Peace Corps model has proven to be an effective way for students to acquire real-world skills and experiences while completing a professional graduate degree,” said Evans School Dean Sandra Archibald. “This is what graduate education should be all about.”
The Evans School will host Monday’s two public events with Olsen. At 4:30 p.m., she will speak at the Forum on the third floor of Parrington Hall about new directions for the corps, and will answer questions after her talk.
Then, at 5:30 p.m., Olsen will attend a reception for returned Peace Corps volunteers hosted by the Marc Lindenberg Center for Humanitarian Action, International Development and Global Citizenship
Among those to be honored will be Forest Resources Associate Professor Ivan Eastin, who served in the Peace Corps in Liberia in the mid-1980s. He also is acting director of the Center for International Trade of Forest Products (CINTRAFOR).
“Ivan has guest-lectured to and mentored our PCMI students, and then devoted a ton of energy to launching a PCMI program in his own unit,” said Elaine Chang, the Lindenberg Center’s acting director.
Eastin said eight to 10 forest-resources students will eventually pursue the Peace Corps degree each year, going abroad to establish nurseries, teach on environmental topics and create “fuel lots” — small plots that grow wood for fuel as an alternative to logging native forests.
Since 1961, nearly 2,300 UW graduates have served in the Peace Corps, including more than 90 currently.