Michigan Tech Tops the Nation in Numbers of Peace Corps Master's International Volunteers for Sixth Year in a Row

By Jennifer Donovan | Published

Callie Bertsch with school children in a Muslim village in Bulgaria.
Callie Bertsch with school children in a Muslim village in Bulgaria.

Michigan Technological University once again has more Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) graduate students actively serving as Peace Corps volunteers than any other college or university in the nation.  Michigan Tech has 32 PCMI students currently on Peace Corps assignments. There are also a number of students on campus fulfilling the academic portions of their master’s degrees.

The national Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., announced today that Michigan Tech has earned the top spot for the sixth consecutive year.  Tulane University placed second, and the University of Washington was third.

“Michigan Tech’s PCMI program is successful because it spans such a wide range of opportunities that Tech has available,” “ said Blair Orr, professor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science and director of PCMI programs at the University.  “We have a large international community on campus and a wide range of activities that complement Peace Corps. Groups like Engineers Without Borders, NOSOTROS (a Hispanic-Latin cultural organization) and Global City add breadth across campus and make this a good place to be in a Peace Corps Master’s International program.”

Tech has many faculty and staff actively involved in the eight PCMI programs, as well as community members and the graduate students themselves, Orr went onto say.  “The students are interested in more than one academic discipline, and we see them taking classes outside their home departments. They know those courses will benefit them while they are in the Peace Corps and over the course of their entire careers.”

Michigan Tech became a PCMI partner in 1995, eight years after the program began.  Offering eight distinct programs in eight different departments, Tech also has the largest number of Master’s International programs in the country.  They include applied natural resource economics, biological sciences, civil and environmental engineering, forest resources and environmental science, mechanical engineering, natural hazards mitigation (geology), rhetoric and technical communication and science education.

Over the Peace Corps’s 50 years, 185 Michigan Tech alumni have served as volunteers, more than half of all the volunteers from Michigan. PCMI graduate students have served all over the world, including Armenia, Belize, Bulgaria, Fiji, Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nepal, Paraguay and Zambia, to name a just few.

The Peace Corps partners with more than 80 colleges and universities across the nation to enable graduate students to earn a master’s degree while serving in the Peace Corps. PCMI students begin their graduate studies on campus, serve overseas with the Peace Corps for two years, doing volunteer work on projects related to their graduate studies. Then they return to school to complete their graduate work.

PCMI programs attract top-notch students and help the Peace Corps meet the worldwide demand for highly skilled professionals by providing countries in need with qualified volunteers.

 “Every year, hundreds of Peace Corps volunteers pair meaningful service with graduate studies through Peace Corps’ Master’s International and Fellows/USA programs,” said Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams.  “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 well for a successful graduate school experience. “

Fellows/USA is a program that provides scholarships, academic credit and stipends to volunteers who have already completed Peace Corps service when they decide to enroll in a graduate program. 

President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 77 host countries.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.