Regional
5:35 pm
Mon November 22, 2010

New Mexico State University In Las Cruces Expands Peace Corps Collaboration

Las Cruces – In time for the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, New Mexico State University will be taking steps to expand the collaboration with the world-reaching volunteer organization by the launching of a Master's International program. This joins the Peace Corps Fellows program in providing assistantships to graduate students affiliated with the Peace Corps.

The Master's International program ties in a master's degree with 27 months of overseas service as a Peace Corps volunteer. Students begin and end the program with coursework at NMSU, and can currently choose from social work or public health degrees offered by the College of Health and Social Services as well as from a number of programs in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. NMSU Provost Wendy Wilkins approved the new program in September and applications are currently being accepted in both colleges for Master's International students to begin in fall 2011.

The Peace Corps Fellows program, which has been offered at NMSU in CHSS since 2003, and in ACES since 2009, is a graduate fellowship that offers financial assistance to returned Peace Corps volunteers. Students complete an internship in an underserved community and may participate in research projects that allow the Fellows to draw upon their experience as volunteers. Both programs are continually seeking applicants.

Though these programs are currently only offered through ACES and CHSS, there is a movement to expand the programs to other colleges at NMSU. Program coordinators from ACES, CHSS and International & Border Programs recently held a panel to educate faculty about the benefits of participating in these programs for recruitment efforts.

"Peace Corps has been the number one recruitment tool for our department, and the graduate students who come through the Peace Corps Fellows program consistently demonstrate the highest levels of creativity and spirit," said Sue Forster-Cox, an associate professor of health sciences who served in Colombia.

Jill Hoxmeier is a first-year fellow in the Master of Public Health program. She is a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Guyana, where she helped teach women to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS, and Saint Lucia, where she volunteered as a Peace Corps Response volunteer in a short-term, high-impact program on dating violence. When she began her search for graduate schools, she only looked at schools that offered the Peace Corps Fellows program.

"I wanted to feel that the school I applied to really valued the work I did for the Peace Corps," Hoxmeier said. "I am glad I did because I can see a difference in my classes now. The returned Peace Corps volunteers are always the most talkative. We have a lot of real world experience to draw on for discussions."

In addition to a livelier classroom, Fellows receive additional benefits, including assistantships that provide students with in-state tuition and health insurance through NMSU.

The Peace Corps was founded in 1961 under John F. Kennedy's term as president with the mission to serve the United States by promoting peace and friendship in developing countries. In the 1980s, the Peace Corps become an independent federal agency. Since its inception, nearly 200,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps, serving in 139 countries.

For more information about the Master's International and Peace Corps Fellows program in ACES, contact Gary Lowe at 575-646-1806 or bhopal@nmsu.edu. For CHSS, contact Sue Forster-Cox at 575-646-2183 or sforster@nmsu.edu.