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Peace Corps, LU team up

27 months of work earns 9 hours of credit in master’s program

Some Lincoln University graduate students soon may be able to complete their master’s degree programs and help the world at the same time.

The Peace Corps this month added LU to its “Master’s International” program, which it describes as “a partnership that allows Peace Corps volunteers to receive graduate school credit for their service abroad.”

Linda Bickel, LU’s graduate programs director, noted: “It gives graduate students an additional option, and I think it’s a good option for people who are already thinking about Peace Corps service, coming out of their undergraduate program.”

Under the 23-year-old federal program, graduate students take their first year of classes, then spend the next 27 months in the Peace Corps before returning to college to complete their master’s degree work.

“They will actually earn 9 more graduate hours toward their degree ... under the supervision of a faculty member here on campus, who will maintain contact with them while they’re (serving) in the Peace Corps,” Bickel said, reducing the amount of course work they’ll need to earn their master’s degree after the Peace Corps.

She said LU hopes to have students enrolled in the program when the 2011-12 school year begins.

Students interested in the Master’s International program first must apply to LU for admission to the graduate program. Then they’ll need to complete the Peace Corps’ separate application requirements.

The program now is tied-in with only two Lincoln graduate programs — business administration, which needs 36 hours to complete a master’s degree, and LU’s new “master’s of science in environmental science,” which needs 33 graduate hours, Bickel said.

As with other Peace Corps workers, she said, their expenses are paid while they work in another country, “and when they leave the Peace Corps, they leave with a ‘transition stipend,’ which actually can help them pay for those final hours in the graduate program.”

Some students have inquired about the program, but no one has signed up for it yet.

“With this new partnership, our volunteers — who will also be Lincoln University of Missouri students — will be able to meet the worldwide demand for highly skilled professionals,” Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams said in a news release. “This program will help create a new generation of leaders prepared to bring the Peace Corps experience back to the United States.”

But there’s no guarantee that the Peace Corps will accept students who apply to it.

And, Bickel said, “A person could get admitted to our program with this in mind, and then decide that they don’t want to do Peace Corps, and then they would just finish our program in a normal format like any other graduate student.”

Students need to remember, though, that successfully joining the program “is going to elongate your graduate program, because you’re putting the Peace Corps service in the middle.”

LU now is one of more than 80 U.S. colleges and universities signed on to the Master’s International program — but is the only one in Missouri.

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