After serving as the site where then Senator John F. Kennedy announced his intentions to create the Peace Corps more than 50 years ago, the University is yet again proving to be a leader in international service as it will partner with the Peace Corps to develop a new collaborative nursing master’s degree program.

The program, Peace Corps’s Master’s International, will be incorporated into the School of Nursing’s new International Health concentration this fall and will include 27 months of service overseas, ultimately becoming the first Peace Corps nursing program in the country.

The University collaborated with the Peace Corps in 2010 to create Master’s International programs in the Schools of Social Work, Natural Resources and Environment and Education. The new nursing program was added to this partnership through an addendum signed last December, according to a University press release.

Interested students are required to apply to both the Peace Corps and the Nursing master’s program, the release stated. Accepted students will serve as health extension volunteers around the world as a part of Master’s International.

Leslie Dorman Davis, program director of the Office of Global Outreach at the School of Nursing, said she believes the program will largely benefit students, allowing them to further their academic goals while gaining valuable life experiences through assisting others.

“(The program) enables the students to graduate in four years with not only the Michigan master’s in nursing, but also with two years of very solid, hands-on, practical, formal experience,” Davis said.

Bill Nolting, assistant director for Education Abroad at the University’s International Center, said the program showcases the growth of the Peace Corps at the University.

“(The relationship) is clearly growing,” Nolting said. “I think that one reason why nursing and the Peace Corps itself are interested in establishing a Masters International program is the strength of our Peace Corps office, and the fact that we have many graduates going in to Peace Corps, and then many Peace Corps volunteers (are) coming back to campus to get graduate degrees.”

Since the University’s nursing program was added to the Peace Corps website last month, the school has already received phone inquiries about the program, according to Davis. Currently, more than 80 academic institutions have Master’s International programs in various studies. The Master’s International program was established in 1987.

Davis said she believes the program will draw in students because of its unique nature.

“We know the interest is out there,” Davis said. “People who are already interested in Peace Corps are looking at these programs and seeing that Michigan has a nursing program, and we’re the only ones so far. It’s specially groomed to draw students who are interested in service and in nursing.”

The University currently ranks fifth in the number of Peace Corps volunteers nationwide. According to Davis, it was only natural that the University took the lead in implementing the new nursing program because of its close ties to the Peace Corps.

“I think it’s keeping with our tradition with the Peace Corps,” Davis said. “It makes sense that we would be at the forefront of something like this, we have a history with the Peace Corps.”

The University has a storied history with the Peace Corps, starting with former Kennedy’s impromptu speech late at night to students on the steps of the Michigan Union in 1960 as he campaigned for president.

In his speech, Kennedy encouraged students to spend two years assisting people in countries around the world. This call to action inspired University students to sign a petition pledging to volunteer their time abroad, which led to the formation of the Peace Corps in 1961.

In fall 2010, the University commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps program with various symposiums and events, including a 2 a.m. reenactment of Kennedy’s original speech.

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