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How UC's Peace Corps programs work

At the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, associate professor Johanna Looye worked in collaboration with the U.S. Peace Corps to form two programs that would incorporate Peace Corps service into community-planning graduate degrees. Looye had already been teaching international-development courses after cultivating a passion for conducting international research during her own collegiate years. She had spent a semester abroad in Colombia, then obtained a Thomas Watson Fellowship to travel to Ecuador and Chile.

In 2002 at the DAAP School of Planning, she developed the Master's International Program, in which students prepare for upcoming Peace Corps assignments by studying urban planning and international-development planning for one year. Next they complete a 27-month Peace Corps assignment while maintaining regular contact with DAAP advisers and conducting research for their master's theses. Afterward they return to UC for a final year of academic work, including courses that reflect on their Peace Corps experiences and opportunities to volunteer in the community while completing their theses.

Eight students have completed the MI program, and three are currently in it.

Formed two years later in 2004, the Coverdell Fellow Program is for returned volunteers who want to apply the skills developed overseas toward earning master's or doctoral degrees. They also gain experience in domestic community-planning experience by interning with one of 20-plus participating community-service organizations — a nice complement to their previous international experiences. Internship responsibilities range from environmental planning to community development focused on affordable housing.

At present, 21 UC students have completed this program, and seven students are now in it, including the program's first doctoral student, Kat Haessler.

Both programs require a community-service project each quarter (soon to become semesters.) In addition to the paid community internships, a few full scholarships are occasionally available. Most Peace Corps students compete successfully for tuition assistance.

Community-planning students can focus on the following areas:

  • economic development  planning
  • environmental planning
  • international development planning
  • physical planning, including housing and land usd
  • urban design
  • regional development planning (PhD)

— D. Rieselman