Keene, New Hampshire – Last January, three students enrolled at Antioch University New England (AUNE) as part of the Master’s International program and soon they will be leaving for over two years abroad as Peace Corps volunteers. All three students are pursuing a Master of Science in Environmental Studies; Niambi Mercado, whose concentration is in advocacy for social justice and sustainability, will take steps toward positive, sustainable environmental change in Ethiopia; Melody Reese, whose concentration is in environmental education, aspires to impact the world by working with individuals in Jamaica; and Jason Brown, whose concentration is in sustainable development and climate change, is currently completing his Peace Corps application with hopes of traveling to Africa or Southeast Asia to become part of the movement to change how people think of the environment.
Along with making a difference in the global community, Brown, Mercado and Reese will each earn 12 credits toward their master’s degrees as a result of the partnership AUNE has with the Peace Corps, at no cost to them, before returning to New England to complete their degrees with a final semester on campus.
“Melody and Niambi’s Peace Corps placements are a celebratory moment culminating from the tremendous support and effort from faculty, administration, and staff to establish this opportunity for our students,” said Jason Rhoades, AUNE’s Master’s International program coordinator. “We are excited for Jason to join them and our job now is to best support our students so they can be highly effective as Peace Corps volunteers and have immensely rewarding educational, service, and personal experiences.”
While abroad, the students will conduct research for their master’s thesis or project while serving their host communities. The Master’s International program gives students customized curriculum and training in technical skills and community development while they gain experiential knowledge to complement their master’s coursework. Students in the 42-credit program spend two semesters on campus at AUNE followed by three months of training and two years of service in the Peace Corps. Upon completion of the program, they will have a very strong resume, a large network of international and domestic contacts, as well as non-competitive eligibility for federal jobs.
“It is my hope that this program will help me gain the necessary knowledge and skills to be highly competitive while advancing my career to meet the needs of the 21st century,” said Brown, who worked as a middle school science teacher before enrolling in AUNE’s Master’s International program. “After completing the program, I hope to work with communities to help them become more resilient as well as adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.”
Through the program, students may choose to pursue a Master of Science in Resource Management and Conservation or Master of Science in Environmental Studies, with concentrations in advocacy for social justice and sustainability, conservation biology, environmental education, and sustainable development and climate change. The program is currently accepting students for fall and spring semesters; prospective students first apply to AUNE’s Department of Environmental Studies master’s program and after acceptance, apply to the Peace Corps.
“The future of humanity and the planet motivates me; we have the tools, the means and the methods to do and be more than just survivors,” said Mercado, who has an undergraduate degree in general science and wildlife management. “I want to help push us towards a future that will be safe and functional for generations to come. AUNE has provided a pathway for me to do so.”
Through the Peace Corps partnership, students can apply to the country where they wish to serve, enabling them to tailor their experience based on their aspirations.
“I have been teaching English as a second language for the past few years, but I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to do forever, so I decided that the Peace Corps would be an excellent way to jump start a second career in Environmental Education – something else I am passionate about,” said Reese, who plans to travel to Jamaica with her spouse. “Like most others at AUNE, my life goal is to change the world, and I truly believe that the best way I can do this is through educating and empowering others.”
And from Rhoades’ perspective, Brown, Mercado and Reese are all on track to do just that.
“These three students have my great admiration and respect for choosing such a challenging and meaningful path for their graduate education,” he said. “Their academic work and service reflects Antioch University’s commitment to engaged scholarship, as well as social and environmental justice. The work that they will be undertaking in collaboration with their partner communities overseas will be putting our values into action and creating tangible positive change across the globe.”