WMU News

WMU and Peace Corps collaborate on new master's

Feb. 14, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Providing graduate students with first-hand experience in improving life in developing countries is the focus of a new collaborative initiative between Western Michigan University and the Peace Corps.

WMU has introduced a Peace Corps option in its Master of Development Administration program, which prepares students who want to work in the public or nonprofit sectors in developing countries or for international development organizations. Housed in WMU's Department of Political Science, the MDA-Peace Corps Option program will enhance participants' education by giving them two years of overseas work experience.

"So many students study the development of emerging countries, but have no experience of what it's really like in those countries," says Dr. Paul Clements, WMU assistant professor of political science and MDA-Peace Corps Option director. "Serving in the Peace Corps as part of their academic program will increase their understanding of these countries and the challenges they face."

As participants in the MDA-Peace Corps Option program, students will complete 30 credit hours of course work in such areas as development administration, economic development strategies and personnel management, before being assigned to service with the Peace Corps for 27 months. Classes use the case study approach and students will work on management strategies in health care, small business support, privatization, telecommunications and agriculture. Prospective students, who must be American nationals, apply for entrance into the Peace Corps Master's International Program and WMU's MDA program concurrently.

The MDA-Peace Corps Option program is the first of its kind in Michigan, and only the third of its type in the nation. Both Rutgers University and the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vt., offer similar programs, while Michigan Technological University currently offers Peace Corps options in forestry and civil and environmental engineering.

Clements, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, says that one of the advantages of WMU's program is the opportunity students have to spend time with other students from developing nations who are enrolled in the University's standard two-year MDA program.

"Most of our MDA students are international students because the program historically has provided training for students who were interested in the development of their home nations. Many of these students are from areas where the Peace Corps volunteers go," Clements says. "So our students will share the classroom with these international students, which will really help enhance their understanding of the problems and opportunities in these countries."

Another strength of the WMU program is the extensive experience its faculty has in international studies. Faculty members involved in the program include those who have intensive field experience and expertise in Russia, China, South Asia, Africa and Latin America as well as those who have worked with the World Bank and the United Nations.

The MDA-Peace Corps Option program expects to enroll up to 10 students each year, and the first student has already begun course work in the program.

For more information about the program, contact Clements by phone at (269) 387-5699 or the WMU Department of Political Science at (269) 387-5680.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 269 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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