New Graduate Fellowships Lure Returning Peace Corps Volunteers to Michigan Tech

Peace Corps volunteer Michelle Cisz in Paraguay with local volunteers and their mascot, a jaguar used by the volunteers to get people interested in their community projects, like this street clean-up campaign.
Peace Corps volunteer Michelle Cisz in Paraguay with local volunteers and their mascot, a jaguar used by the volunteers to get people interested in their community projects, like this street clean-up campaign.

A new partnership between Michigan Technological University and the US Peace Corps will enable returning Peace Corps volunteers to attend graduate school at Michigan Tech while putting their Peace Corps skills to work.  Michigan Tech is one of the universities recently selected by the Peace Corps to offer new or expanded Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program graduate degrees, which include scholarships and degree-related internships in underserved American communities. 

The new fellowships will support graduate degrees in biological sciences, forestry, applied ecology, forest ecology and management, forest molecular genetics and biotechnology, environmental policy and industrial archaeology.  All returned Peace Corps volunteers will be eligible to apply for the Coverdell program. Currently,12 alumni who received bachelor’s degrees at Michigan Tech are serving in the Peace Corps. They also will be eligible for the new program when they finish their service. 

“Michigan Tech is extremely pleased to be selected to participate in the Coverdell Fellows Program,” said Graduate School Dean Jacqueline Huntoon. “With this program, we will continue to strengthen our collaboration with the Peace Corps, building on our existing programs for returned Peace Corps volunteers and students in our Peace Corps Master's International programs.

“Michigan Tech places great value on its relationship with the Peace Corps because it helps us to attract students who are committed to making a difference in the world,” Huntoon went on to say. “These students are great role models for others on campus.”

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science Professor Blair Orr will head the new Coverdell Fellows partnership as well as a new US Office of Surface Mining VISTA program, through which the Coverdell Fellows will serve as AmeriCorps VISTA service members in underserved US.communities. Orr was the founding director of Michigan Tech’s Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) programs.

Since 1995, Michigan Tech has offered PCMI programs, enabling graduate students to combine studies with current Peace Corps service for credit toward their degrees. In fact, Michigan Tech ranks as the top Master’s International university nationwide for number of students enrolled and degrees offered through the program, and nearly 150 Peace Corps volunteers have participated.

Coverdell Fellows will receive a tailored financial aid package, including 30 percent of graduate tuition and enrollment in the AmeriCorps VISTA program, which will allow them to earn four credits for VISTA service. They will also receive VISTA health insurance and an AmeriCorps education award. The value of these tuition benefits is $14,129.

“The Peace Corps is delighted to have Michigan Tech as a partner in the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program,” said Acting Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet. “This new partnership enables returned Peace Corps volunteers to continue their work in public service through meaningful internships in underserved American communities. Experience overseas and graduate studies position Peace Corps Fellows to launch a career by combining coursework with service.” 

The Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program started in 1985 at Teachers College, Columbia University and now includes more than 80 university partners in 31 states and the District of Columbia. The program is specifically reserved for students who have already completed their tenure abroad with the Peace Corps. More details can be found at

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.