Mason, Peace Corps Partner on New Conflict Analysis and Resolution Degree

Posted: December 21, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: January 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm

By James Greif

Masonand Peace Corps officials celebrated the new partnership. From left, Michelle Marks, associate provost for graduate affairs; Krista, Peace Corps; Peter Stearns, Mason provost; xxx; Andrea Bartoli, ICAR director. Photo by Lori A. Wilson

Mason and Peace Corps officials celebrated the new partnership. From left, Michelle Marks, Mason associate provost for graduate education; Krista Rigalo, program and training specialist for the Peace Corps; Peter Stearns, Mason provost; Eric Goldman, director of the Peace Corps' Master's International program; and Andrea Bartoli, ICAR director. Photo by Lori A. Wilson

Mason’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR) has announced, in partnership with the Peace Corps, a new Peace Corps Master’s International program in conflict analysis and resolution. The degree is the first conflict resolution-related Master’s International program affiliated with the Peace Corps.

The Master’s International program is a partnership between 61 universities across the United States and the Peace Corps. Through the program, students are able to simultaneously earn a master’s degree while serving their two-year commitment to the Peace Corps.

Mason has one of the highest enrollments of any participating college. Mason also hosts Peace Corps Master’s International students in nursing, health services management, political science, public administration and teaching English as a second language.

“This is a really exciting time for the Peace Corps and for Mason and ICAR as well,” says Krista Rigalo, program and training specialist at Peace Corps and a recent ICAR PhD graduate.

“It is quite fitting that on the fifth anniversary of our partnership with Mason that we introduce a new program, and that this program is in conflict analysis. The program is mutually beneficial in the sense that we’re going to get the volunteers we need with the skills we need, and the volunteers will have the opportunity to get unique and valuable field experience.”

Students apply to the program through the standard admissions process for the master of science in conflict analysis and resolution, as well as for Peace Corps service. Students must be accepted into both programs in order to take part in the degree.

ICAR students participating in the program will spend two semesters and a summer on campus prior to serving in the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment, with 24 months of service and three months of pre-service training.

Students will have the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, depending on the needs of the host country and the skill set and interests of the volunteers. Previous Peace Corps participants have worked on projects related to education, community and business development, health care, and food and water safety.

In the academic year before their service, students will learn strategies for dealing with conflict surrounding matters of cultural sensitivity, discrimination, minority issues and development, among others. Mason students in the program will then provide Peace Corps volunteers the skills necessary to operate effectively in post-conflict areas.

During the 2008 election campaign, President Barack Obama discussed expanding the Peace Corps program to new countries or returning to countries that are post-conflict. Rigalo says the education that ICAR provides will prove to be valuable when addressing the needs of these communities.

“Understanding the dynamics and implications of conflict is relevant to every skill and service that the Peace Corps provides,” says Julie Shedd, associate director for administration at ICAR.

“This program will enhance the effectiveness of each skill by empowering each volunteer with a knowledge base that will allow them to more effectively meet the challenges of navigating community issues of communication, public participation and fair governance that will inevitably arise during their field service.”

ICAR is now accepting applications for the fall 2010 semester. More information about the Master’s International program can be found online.

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