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Spring 2010

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The PCMI Program
Michael Wagner, PhD

Earning a Master's Degree While Volunteering with the Peace Corps

The Peace Corps Master’s International Program (PCMI) at Northern Arizona University offers the unique opportunity to combine the life-changing experience of Peace Corps service with a graduate degree from the nationally ranked NAU School of Forestry.

Benefits of Peace Corps service:

• International travel expenses
• Living & housing allowance
• Full medical, dental, and vacation benefits
• Deferment of federal school loans
• Cash readjustment allowance

Benefits of the PCMI program:

• Graduate credit for Peace Corps service
• Master’s of Forestry degree with international emphasis upon program completion

Students in this program earn a Master’s of Forestry degree with an international emphasis by combining graduate work with their Peace Corps experience. Cohorts of PCMI students begin the program in the fall and take two semesters (12-16 credits) of graduate forestry core courses in ecosystem science and management, along with statistics and international forestry.

After completing this coursework, students begin their Peace Corps volunteer experience abroad with three months of language, culture, and technical training in their host country. This is followed by two years of Peace Corps volunteer service. Students then return to NAU for one semester to complete their capstone professional paper and receive a Master’s of Forestry degree.

Beginning this spring, NAU implemented a new pilot program that gives students the opportunity to pair with either Mexico or Ghana host countries while still in their first year of graduate studies. Matching students with their future host country early in the academic process allows them to tailor their graduate work to forestry and environmental topics specific to their host country and to begin their language study in advance. The School of Forestry has a long history of working with both Mexico and Ghana in a variety of research projects.

PCMI students also have the opportunity to be placed in host countries other than Ghana and Mexico according to their interests and qualifications. See “ ‘Anyways’: An African Experience” by PCMI student Bob Sather to read about his ongoing service in Zambia. In the future, students could serve in any of approximately 150 countries. 

Along with access to NAU financial assistance, a special PCMI assistantship is available that provides a $5,000 stipend for nine months and waiver of the difference between out-of-state and in-state tuition. Partial waiver of in-state tuition is also possible. This assistantship requires 10 hours per week of work in various projects.

For more information, see the Peace Corps website and the NAU program description. I encourage interested students to contact me at or to speak with NAU Peace Corps recruiter Stephanie Rayburn at

—Michael Wagner, Regents’ Professor of Forestry and PCMI program advisor