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Korbel’s Peace Corps program places master’s students directly in the field

While many students in the United States learn about international relations from thousands of miles away, master’s students in the Peace Corps International Program at DU’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies learn about the subject by immersing themselves in the field.

The program incorporates Peace Corps service with a master’s degree in international administration, international development or global finance, trade and economic integration. The program also allows for concentrations in human rights, global political economy, conflict resolution, policy analysis, global health affairs and development.

“The coupling of our master’s programs with Peace Corps service provides students with opportunities to apply practical skills and theoretical frameworks to their ‘mud on the boots’ experiences,” says Nicole Vilegi, Korbel’s associate director of graduate admissions, Peace Corps program coordinator and returned Peace Corps volunteer (Jamaica, 2002­–04.)

Students first take 72 credit hours of classes on campus, which can be completed in a year and a half. The second part of the program requires 27 months of Peace Corps service.

The Peace Corps places students in one of 77 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central or South America, Europe or the Middle East.

Peace Corps volunteers live, learn and provide service in their community in one of the following capacities: education, youth and community development, health, business, information and communications technology, agriculture or environment.

After completing their service, returned Peace Corps students write an extensive research paper, which is the final requirement for the program.

More than 70 students are currently enrolled or have already completed the program.

Peter Birmingham, who is teaching English classes in Ukraine for his Peace Corps service, says the sequence of the program components is ideal.

“I’m very glad to have completed my master’s coursework before joining, if only to approach this experience with a perspective that is slightly more worldly and self-confident than it otherwise would have been,” he says.

Elena Augustine is completing her Peace Corps experience in Kazakhstan, where she also teaches English and raises awareness about HIV/AIDS.

“Korbel has helped me enormously in being able to do effective work for my organization here in Kazakhstan,” she says. “Some of my work is directly with youth and some is in organizational development. The latter related directly to my international administration master’s program.”

Program alumni pursue jobs around the world in diverse fields — including commerce, conflict resolution, diplomacy, economic development, education, global health, government, humanitarian relief, law and military affairs — where they can apply their education and Peace Corps experiences.

The University also has a Peace Corps Community Student Group, which connects returned Peace Corps volunteers with students interested in the program. They meet to share information and experiences, engage in community service, attend events together and network.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, which President Kennedy started on March 1, 1961 to encourage students to engage in service and to promote peace around the world. To learn more about the program, visit the Peace Corps Master’s Program website.

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