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Peace Corps volunteers have more master's degree options at MU

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 | 5:41 p.m. CST; updated 5:06 p.m. CST, Monday, February 13, 2012

COLUMBIA — MU’s Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellows Program, a graduate fellowship offering financial assistance to returned Peace Corps volunteers, has expanded degree options.

Before the expansion, MU offered returning volunteers master’s degrees in fields such as geography, agricultural economics, political science, social work, rural sociology and public affairs. It now offers all of MU’s 96 master’s degree programs, allowing more people to pair Peace Corps service with graduate school.

Third Goal International Film Festival

WHEN: Saturday, 1 - 8 p.m.

WHERE: Chamber Auditorium, MU

FILMS:

  • 1 p.m. - "Bush League"
  • 3 p.m. - "To Educate a Girl"
  • 4:45 p.m. - "Peace Corps Shorts"
  • 5:30 p.m. - "Frontrunner"
  • 7 p.m. - "Paradise in Peril"

ADMISSION: Free 



Through the program, each fellow receives an annual stipend of at least $24,000 to cover living expenses, a full tuition waiver and full health insurance coverage throughout the two-year graduate program, according to the MU fellows program website.

In the Peace Corps, participants complete internships in underserved communities and then return home with new skills, such as adapting to new cultures and dealing with language barriers.

After serving, students apply to master's programs at schools that participate in the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program. MU has been awarding fellowships to returning Peace Corps volunteers since 2006.

"They (the fellows) are aware of cultural differences and international issues," said Meredith Dorneker, Peace Corps Fellows Program coordinator at MU and former Peace Corps volunteer. "Most are fluent in another language. Capacity building and learning to build and strengthen relationships is the foundation of Peace Corps training; RPCVs (returned Peace Corps volunteers) have this approach engrained in them."

Dorneker said more students have contacted her for information about the program, and she is expecting that there will be an increase in applicants in the future.

An increase of students in the fellows program could result in even more students on campus with the two-year international Peace Corps experience.

"Serving with the Peace Corps is a unique, life-changing experience," Dorneker said. "Peace Corps volunteers provide technical assistance on a grassroots, community level in a variety of areas."

Peace Corps volunteers are also more likely to find a job than someone who hasn't volunteered, according to Andrew Fritz, recruiter for MU and the central Missouri area.

"Employers understand that they already have two years of international experience, which gives returned volunteers a different perspective than people who have stayed in the U.S.," Fritz said.

Fritz volunteered with the Peace Corps in Zambia, which is in southern Africa. He worked for Zambia's government in conservation, farming, natural resource protection and agroforestry.

Prior to volunteering with the Peace Corps, Fritz was certain he was going to seek a master's degree in fine arts, but the experience changed his mind.

"It changed my mind about what's important in life," Fritz said.

Now he plans to obtain a master's degree in a program that focuses more on community development. He didn't wish to disclose the specific degree program.

Since Peace Corps' founding under John F. Kennedy in 1961, 950 MU alums have served, and approximately 30 are serving today.

Central Missouri Returned Peace Corps Volunteers will host the Third Goal International Film Festival on Friday, Feb. 3 and Saturday, Feb. 4 at MU.

On Friday, there will be a free filmmakers workshop from 6 — 7:30 p.m. where aspiring filmmakers, or anyone interested, can learn about the art of film-making. The workshop will be held at Columbia Access Television's Studio A on Stephens College's campus.

Following the workshop, there will be a social dinner at Broadway Brewery at approximately 7:30 p.m., where attendees will have the opportunity to meet one of the filmmakers leading the workshop, Cy Kuckenbaker.

Those interested in attending the dinner should RSVP to Mike Burden at mikeburden77@gmail.com by Thursday.

The free films will be shown Saturday in Chamber Auditorium at MU. These films are set in Malawi, Afghanistan, Nepal, Uganda and Honduras and cover access to education, women’s rights, conservation and more.


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