Combining Peace Corps with Masters

Peace Corps

 The first motivating factor of my decision to look into graduate school programs was directly linked to our organization, the Peace Corps. In June 2010 after graduating from DePaul University in 2009 and accepting my first job with Vibes Media in Chicago, I realized that I wanted to serve others, learn a new culture and language, and live an adventure. I wanted to refine and diversify my professional skills and create a more attractive profile for future employers while enjoying an incredibly rewarding and challenging journey along the way.

While researching the Peace Corps’ website I stumbled on the section titled Programs with sub-header titled Grad School. Curious, I entered the page and began to examine the educational opportunities that existed in collaboration with the Peace Corps.

Master’s International

I researched the first opportunity titled Master’s International. This program allows volunteers to study before and after their service. The second opportunity was titled Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program. The program offers financial aid and scholarships to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).  Being that I was not ready to make a radical leap into the unknown, yet wanted to pursue a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) I became drawn to the Master’s International program and began doing further research.

Participating Schools

I followed the option of searching for the universities and programs which would match my interests in connecting the Peace Corps and MBA program together. In the Program Area section I selected Business, Accounting, Finance and for Program State selected All States. I chose to research programs that allowed me to attend their university while I volunteered, however in your case the correct option would be to select After I’ve Volunteered (Fellows).

For all programs I established the following criteria: 1) Reputation, 2) Cirriculum, 3) Location

Viewing the list of schools, I narrowed my list to the following universities: Arizona, Colorado, Notre Dame, the Pacific, Rochester, South Carolina, and Thunderbird.

As I read the admission requirements for each school, I realized that in order to apply and gain acceptance into the university I would need to take a standardized exam known as the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT).

 GMAT Exam

 I wanted to know why I had to take this exam?

What was the structure and requirements of the exam?

What are the GMAT score requirements for the universities on my list?

– and –

Where I could take the exam and receive training beforehand?

After finding the aforementioned resources, I knew that maximizing my GMAT score would be best fulfilled with the instruction and insight of a professional. I began researching different test preparation centers and realized that my best friend from Chicago once interned at Kaplan Test Prep. I asked him for more information and his recommendation, and he insisted that I take a GMAT preparation course with Kaplan.

I wanted to study on-site with a real professor and classmates in order to share ideas and to be able to ask questions as they arose. I chose to enroll in live on-site courses which spanned over two months. The price was $1,600 for the lessons but I considered this an investment in my future and realized that if I did not raise my initial test score there was a full money-back guarantee.

After two months of studying, I took the GMAT exam and received the score I was hoping to achieve in order to apply for the Master’s programs on my list.

Choosing the Correct University

After revisiting all of the options on the list I created, only five remained in consideration after taking the GMAT exam: Arizona, Notre Dame, the Pacific, South Carolina, and Thunderbird.

Arizona and Notre Dame only offered Fellows programs at the time so I eliminated both schools from consideration. After looking at the remaining three options and keeping in mind my own criteria (Reputation, Cirriculum, Location), I applied to all three programs but only one choice made perfect sense: The Darla Moore School of Business at The University of South Carolina (Moore).

I chose Moore because their program is incredibly unique and well-positioned in the International MBA category (#3). Thunderbird currently holds the higher ranking for International MBA programs but Thunderbird does not offer the same learning benefits as Moore. Seeing as language and culture was principal in my reasons for joining the Peace Corps I discovered that Moore’s semester abroad of intensive language training was exactly the type of program I wanted to enroll in. At the time I wanted to connect the Spanish language with Peace Corps service in Latin America in order to gain fluency. Moore offered a study abroad program in México and Spain.

Ultimately, I wanted to be part of a university with a rich tradition, large student body, beautiful campus, and sports/extracurricular activities and facilities located in an urban setting. Columbia, South Carolina was a better fit over Glendale, Arizona which is located in a suburb 30 minutes outside of Phoenix.

The choice became easy to make and I positioned Moore at the top rung of my MBA ladder.

Application and Interview

When applying to Moore (and the other two universities) there were two main components I had to submit and pass in order to gain acceptance: Application and Interview

In the application section I had to complete: personal information, academic information (undergraduate transcripts), statement of purpose (500 words), employment history, resume, the posting of test scores (GMAT), and optional essay (500 words), recommendations, and immunization forms. With a full-time job, the process for applying to three schools took approximately one month. Once officially applied I received an invitation to interview, however I only accepted the offer to interview with USC.

I was given three options for the interview: by phone, by Skype, or in-person. Given that I am from Chicago, the obvious choice seemed to be electronic. Nevertheless, I chose in-person. I wanted to see the university, the campus, the city of Columbia, and to meet with the Moore administration to get a better understanding of the program and facilities where I would be studying and investing my time and money. The interview lasted one hour and I was asked a lot of questions about professional experience, character, reasons for wanting to join the program, what I would contribute to the university, projecting the future, and why I wanted to work internationally.

After the interview and campus visit, I was further convinced that Moore was the best fit for me.

For more information about the admissions process, click here.

Moore School of Business

Navigate the Darla Moore School of Business IMBA Program.

In February 2011, I received acceptance to Moore and in June 2011 began the first semester of the program named “The Core”. The curriculum included 13 courses in six months, all of which were incredibly demanding and difficult. The majority of courses were exam based, but many group projects, case study presentations, and individual papers were also assigned.

The first semester course schedule, comprised:

  • Financial Accounting in the Global Environment (710)

  • International Management (714)

  • Global Finance (715)

  • Management Accounting in the Global Environment (717)

  • Operations Management (718)

  • Information Systems (719)

  • Leadership Skills and Ethical Behavior (723)

  • Global Strategic Management I (711)

  • Decision Analysis (712)

  • Global Economics (713)

  • Global Marketing Management (716)

  • Global Entrepreneurship (721)

  • Globalization and Corporate Responsibility (722)

The second semester of the program involved choosing a Language Track in order to gain fluency or high proficiency in a foreign language. As mentioned, I was interested in learning the Spanish language so I enrolled in a semester of intensive language training at Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) in Guadalajara, Mexico. For four months, I spent 40 hours per week in formal classes with three other intermediate level students learning grammar and speech. The course was exam based with only a few presentations and written assignments. The course was titled:

  • Language Training in International Business I (700S)

Living and studying in México made learning Spanish more useful and interesting. Professors Roxana Noguez and Mildred Arce were incredible instructors and made learning applicable to real-life situations and in the Latin American business environment.

Interested in other languages than Spanish? Discover the alternatives.

Peace Corps Service Deliverables

Currently I am enrolled in the internship portion of the Moore program named Peace Corps Track.

After 27 months of service in Moldova I will need to deliver 10 detailed blog posts or a 15 page paper describing my internship experience. I have maintained a personal blog, Southeast Dispatch, to describe the organization I am working for as a Small Enterprise Development volunteer while also delivering dosages of life outside of work.

Year Two of Program

The second and final year of the program allows students to choose their own elective courses and provide them another opportunity to study at an international partnership university. The focus areas or concentrations are stated here.

In the second year, I plan on pursuing courses in Marketing Management and Entrepreneurship. I plan on taking one or both semesters at ESCP Europe Business School in Madrid, Spain to refine my Spanish and to continue to build an international profile.

Career Opportunities

After graduation from Moore, I plan on working for-profit and possibly start or join a small business venture. The Peace Corps has allowed for me to work autonomously in my community and I have learned a ton about all aspects of business administration, client and employee management, and myself. I have no hesitations about working abroad and will incorporate the language skills gained during service in any environment I shall work in whether domestic or international.

Only time will tell… I just would like to follow what feels right and continue to be a student of life.

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