Peace Corps veterans beat path to Heller School door

Just two years after beginning Coverdell program, Brandeis ranks 5th in US

Jessica Ginger, a student in Heller's Sustainable International Development Program, was a teacher in Moldova.

Every year, hundreds of Peace Corps volunteers return to the United States to pursue graduate degrees, and increasingly they are choosing to continue their education at Brandeis Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

This year, Brandeis ranks fifth in the nation on the Peace Corps’ list of top Coverdell Fellows programs, though it only began participating in the fellowship two years ago. Currently, 27 returned Peace Corps volunteers are studying at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management as Coverdell Fellows. 

The Peace Corps’ Coverdell program partners with colleges and universities to reduce the cost of graduate programs for returning volunteers. 

The Brandeis fellows are pursuing master in business administration degrees in Nonprofit Management, master of arts degrees in Public Policy, Sustainable International Development, Coexistence and Conflict, and master of science degrees in International Health Policy and Management at the Heller School.

Each fellow receives a minimum $10,000 scholarship for each year of full-time study and is required to volunteer in an underserved American community, such as urban Boston or rural Maine.  

While the Coverdell Fellows are relatively new at Brandeis, the Peace Corps has long been popular with Brandeis graduates. Since 1961, 269 Brandeis alumni have served in the Peace Corps, with 10 currently serving overseas. 

Fellow Jessica Ginger worked for five years at a health care organization after finishing her stint in the Peace Corps, then enrolled in Heller’s Sustainable International Development program. She says that when she looked into going back to school, she sought a place where her classmates would have as much experience as she did. 

“When I visited Brandeis, I saw how diverse the classrooms were,” Ginger, 30, said. “I knew that I wouldn’t just be learning from my professors but I would be learning from my peers as well.”

The Heller School places a premium on experience, said Ginger, who served in the Republic of Moldova while in the Peace Corps.

“Most of the professors have practical experience in the field,” Ginger said.  “I didn’t want to learn only from a book. I wanted to learn from their experiences."

Dean Lisa Lynch said that because "the Heller School is the school of choice for those who choose service, it is no surprise that so many returning Peace Corps Volunteers choose to come to Heller to advance their understanding of policies that promote peace and human well-being."

Ranked above Brandeis on the Peace Corps’ list of top Master’s International and Coverdell Fellows programs were University of Denver (56 fellows), the University of Arizona (52 fellows), Columbia University Teachers College (45 fellows) and Johns Hopkins University (42 fellows).

Filling out the top ten are The New School, University of Michigan, Duke University, Western New Mexico University and University of Maryland-Baltimore.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, International Affairs, Student Life

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