by Jacqueline Frost
The School of Public Health has teamed up with the Peace Corps in a partnership that allows students to earn credit while volunteering for Peace Corps service.
One of 25 such programs nationally, the collaboration helps the Peace Corps meet its demand for highly skilled people in a variety of fields and gives Berkeley students the opportunity to gain technical, language and cross-cultural training in the field of public health.
"We are very excited about the program from an academic point of view," said Patricia Buffler, dean of the School of Public Health. "It is a unique format for students."
Buffler and a Peace Corps official signed the agreement on Sept. 21 at University Hall.
Known as the Master's International Program, it was first established at Rutgers University in 1987. In addition to public health, there are similar programs in business, urban planning, agriculture, forestry and English teaching. Among Berkeley students there is great interest in the program.
In the Berkeley program, students can earn a master of public health in epidemiology, maternal and child health, community health education or public health nutrition.
Students will spend three academic semesters on campus and an additional practicum semester in the United States. They then spend two years as Peace Corps volunteers, earning credit towards their degree similar to an internship.
Colleen Denny, who is completing her second year in Berkeley's master's program in maternal and child health, is the first Berkeley student to participate in the partnership. Beginning in January, Denny will begin serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay.
"My mom was a social worker and my father was an educator so I have been exposed to the rewards of public service," said Denny. "I am really thankful for this opportunity."
While serving as a volunteer, the Peace Corps pays students a travel allowance and a modest living stipend. In addition, volunteers receive a $5,400 readjustment allowance when they return to the U.S.
Repayment of most student loans is suspended during Peace Corps service and some loans may be partially forgiven.
Since the Peace Corps was founded in 1961, Berkeley has sent more than 3,000 volunteers to developing nations--more than any educational institution in the nation.