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University, Peace Corps sign program agreement

By Claire Bryan , Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 26, 2014

After a ceremony Wednesday afternoon, the University’s School of Information expanded its partnership with the Peace Corps through two new initiatives.

The first agreement allowed the University to create its own branch of the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program. The Coverdell program provides financial support and academic credit to any students who have previously served in the Peace Corps, allowing them to count part of their time in the organization towards graduation.

The second created a partnership with the University and the Master’s International Program, which will allow students to start their Masters in Science in Information before serving in the Peace Corps and return to it once they complete their service. This program is the first ever at an Information School.

According to Judy Lawson, assistant dean for student and academic affairs, students' time in the Peace Corps will fulfill six internship credits, a total of 360 hours.

After returning to the program, students will be required to participate in the Initiative for Information Impact—a set of service based projects including Alternative Spring Break, Citizen Interaction Design, Global Information Engagement Program and Michigan Makers, Lawson said.

“I think the interest around the School of Information is one that has really grown out of the existing relationship but also a realization, both on the part of the Peace Corp and people here at Michigan who have worked with the Peace Corps, that there is a real need within the work of the Peace Corp around information technology,” James Holloway, vice provost for global and engaged education, said.

For example, there is a new application in development that will allow Peace Corps volunteers to manage and track their medication and health while serving. This is incredibly important for volunteers who are frequently in places that do not offer essential medical benefits, Holloway said.

The University’s graduate programs have nine previous agreements with the Peace Corps, including the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, the School of Natural Resources and Environment, the School or Education, the School of Nursing, the School of Social Work and the School of Art and Design.

Holloway and Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, dean of the School of Information, signed the agreements with Carrie Hessler-Radelet, acting director of the Peace Corps.

“The School of Information is committed to giving students opportunities to help people use information, with technology, to build a better world,” MacKie-Mason wrote in a press release. “The Peace Corps offers students an unparalleled chance to put that knowledge into practice, creating innovative solutions to help others.”

University alum Gabriel Krieshok, who served with the Peace Corps in Madagascar, said in a press release his experience allowed him to see the impact technology has on a community.

“The University of Michigan's School of Information afforded me the tools and hands-on experience to make an impact on international development issues,” Krieshok said.

The University frequently ranks as a top contributor of Peace Corps participants. Last year, the University placed fifth nationally and third among Big Ten schools, trailing the University of Wisconsin and Ohio State University. In 2013, 81 graduates went on to work for the Peace Corps.

The University has historically maintained strong ties to the Peace Corps since its creation, which President John F. Kennedy announced on the steps of the Michigan Union in 1960.

“The enthusiasm for service that President Kennedy saw on the Michigan campus more than 50 years ago continues to drive students to the Peace Corps,” Hessler-Radelet said in a February statement to the Daily. “The University of Michigan's commitment to service and cross-cultural learning makes it consistently one of the top five recruiters of Peace Corps volunteers.”