Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

U-M ranks seventh for Peace Corps Paul D. Coverdell Fellows

U-M ranks No. 7 in the nation as a Peace Corps Paul D. Coverdell Fellows university in the 2013 rankings of top Peace Corps Master's International and Coverdell Fellows graduate schools.

U-M has 20 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers currently enrolled in the Coverdell Fellows graduate program.

The Coverdell Fellows Program provides returned volunteers with scholarships, academic credit, and stipends to earn an advanced degree after they complete their Peace Corps service along with professional internships helping underserved American communities. The Peace Corps Master's International program allows students to earn their graduate degree while serving in the Peace Corps. U-M offers both Peace Corps Fellows and Master's International programs.

"Every year, hundreds of Peace Corps Volunteers make a difference by combining meaningful service with graduate studies through Peace Corps' Master's International and Coverdell Fellows programs," Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. "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 for success in today's global job market."

The Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows Program at U-M has been in place since 2007, offering graduate degrees through the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the School of Natural Resources and Environment. Additionally, U-M offers four Peace Corps Master's International programs in the schools of Social Work, Education, Nursing, and SNRE.

One of U-M's on-campus Peace Corps recruiters, Mackenzie Knowling, is a Coverdell Fellow earning her master's degree in public policy. These dual roles allow her to share her experience and inspire other students to consider Peace Corps while also pursuing her own academic and professional goals.

As an agricultural marketing volunteer in Guatemala who taught community development and basic business practices to more than 500 coffee farmers from 2007-09, Knowling learned how to be a patient, independent self-starter able to build and sustain relationships with different types of people — skills just as useful in her graduate studies at U-M as they were in her rural community in Guatemala.

"Out of all the grad schools I looked at, Michigan was the only one that felt like home, and I knew that I would be surrounded by people who would push me beyond what I thought I was capable of," Knowling said.

"I chose the Ford School because it incorporated not only the study of economics and statistics but explored the complexities of development and policy through classes that addressed border contextual issues such as culture, religion, and race."

The university's 20 fellows have served as Peace Corps volunteers in areas around the world including Africa, the Caribbean, Latin American, Asia, and Eastern Europe. The Peace Corps graduate programs attract global-minded students to the university; help Peace Corps meet host country needs for skilled professionals to serve and assist communities in key areas of need, such as environmental conservation, public health, youth and community development, and education and English teaching; and help volunteers reach higher education and career goals while bringing their overseas skills and experience back to the U.S.

The history of the Peace Corps can be traced back to U-M when, at 2 a.m. on Oct. 14, 1960, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy challenged students on the steps of the Union to give two years of their lives to help people in developing countries. U-M students accepted that challenge and, in March 1961, Kennedy signed the executive order creating the Peace Corps.

U-M is the No. 4 all-time producer of Peace Corps volunteers, and more than 2,515 alumni have served during the agency's history. Currently, 93 U-M graduates are serving as Peace Corps volunteers in communities abroad, making U-M No. 4 on the Peace Corps' annual list of the top volunteer-producing large universities across the country. Additionally, Michigan is among the top-producing states for volunteers, and 316 Michigan residents are currently serving in the Peace Corps. Overall, 6,866 Michigan residents have served since the agency was created.