HOUGHTON - When Peace Corps volunteer Julie Herrick was working toward living with an indigenous community, she wanted to be placed in a very specific location - as close to a volcano as possible.
The Michigan Tech student, whose sector was in environment health, was placed near a volcano in Panama and conducted work on a water project, living with an indigenous community for two years.
"I was looking for a graduate program that I could put to use my skills that I already gained from my undergrad experience," she said of joining the program. "I realized that hazard medication was an important place to be. It's unique in America and it's a crisis."
Herrick, a student in the field of geology, decided she wanted to be near a volcanic system for a site that was appropriate to her skills and also allowed access for her thesis research.
Herrick, with other Peace Corps volunteers from Michigan Technological University, shared their stories at a luncheon on Tech's campus Tuesday honoring the 15th anniversary of the Peace Corps Master's International Program at Michigan Tech - the largest in the country.
The Peace Corps Master's International Program combines Peace Corps service with postgraduate study leading to a master's degree. The program usually encompasses two semesters of intensive technical education at Tech as well as three months of in-country training and two years overseas as a volunteer conducting research.
Students, like Herrick, get the opportunity to travel to a different part of the world and take what they know and share it with the world.
Patricia Butler was a Peace Corps Master's International Student in the forestry department at Michigan Tech.
"The Peace Corps operates within a variety of development sectors, for instance, environmental education, community health, teaching English," Butler said.
Peace Corps has three goals, Butler said: to take the American heritage and present it to a foreign country, taking the heritage from a foreign country and learning about it and finally, to bring culture back to America and share knowledge.
"I decided in the fall of 2005 and I went to the Republic of Armenia from 2006 to 2008," Butler said.
Butler was an environmental education volunteer and she was placed in a town of about 9,000 people. Part of her project included conducting a waste composition study for the community, she said.
"Although that has nothing to do with forestry, that's the only project my community was very excited about and invested in and that's why I chose to do that," she said.
Butler said after completing her undergraduate studies, she knew she wanted to find a graduate program tailored to her needs being very interested in the Peace Corps program for quite some time.
"I stumbled across this program one day," she said. "I could just tell that this was the program for me."
Matthew Kucharski, a student at Arizona State University, was looking for a graduate school program and knew he wanted to be a part of an applied grad school that was more "hands-on."
"I was looking for grad schools and I was working with a professor and he actually said, 'I know there's a program in Michigan,'" Kucharski said.
Stacey Kukkonen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.