Binghamton University’s College of Community and Public Affairs is partnering with the United States Peace Corps to offer graduate students a chance to help people across the world while earning credit for a master’s degree in public administration.
The Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) is a program designed to encourage students to volunteer for the Peace Corps while furthering their education. According to professor of public administration and program coordinator Susan Appe, PCMI students will benefit by gaining international field experience, getting a competitive edge in the job market and acquiring secondary language fluency while working in another country.
“We feel that the program is an excellent opportunity for students to combine their Peace Corps experience with a professional degree,” Appe said, “leveraging both experiences to prepare students to become leaders in public service.”
Appe is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Macedonia in 2001 and Bolivia from 2002-2004. She spearheaded the program and was able to convince the Department of Public Administration to agree to offer the degree. There are a total of 90 universities that have PCMI programs, but BU is only one of two schools in New York state that combines public administration with Peace Corps services.
According to Appe, the PCMI consists of spending the first year completing coursework at BU, followed by 27 months abroad with the Peace Corps. Students will also complete a total of six credits during their Peace Corps service, at no additional cost.
“It is a big commitment that spans almost four years,” Appe said. “But if students know they want to do Peace Corps and get a graduate degree, this is faster and has a lower cost than doing each separately.”
David Campbell, chair of the department of public administration, said his department wanted to offer a program that would prepare students who want to participate in public service and are interested in working with the Peace Corps. Campbell reiterated Appe’s sentiments that combining public service with the Peace Corps will make graduates better professional candidates.
“Students can apply theory — what they learn in the MPA Program — to the practical challenges they will face in the Peace Corps,” Campbell said. “In effect, they can use the knowledge they’ve acquired to make a difference through their Peace Corps service.”
According to Campbell, those in the program will work with the Peace Corps to decide what region they will be traveling to. In addition, Appe said the Department of Public Administration is already conducting research in many Peace Corps countries, such as China and Peru, and is currently developing exchange programs in Turkey and Colombia.
Appe said the PCMI is good for BU since it not only strengthens the department’s MPA degree program, but also helps BU build international relations.
“The MPA program’s definition of ‘community’ is not limited to the greater Binghamton area, but rather includes communities throughout the world,” Appe said.
Campbell said the program will add to the reputation of the University and bring in potential students who wish to change the world.
“We want students to choose Binghamton University because it educates future change-makers,” Campbell explained. “The Peace Corps Master’s International program is another way in which we make it possible for our students to become those change-makers.”