Michigan Tech Offers Nation's First Peace Corps Master's International Mechanical Engineering Program
by Jennifer Donovan, director of public relations
The US Peace Corps has approved the establishment of a Peace Corps Master's International (PCMI) program in mechanical engineering at Michigan Tech, the first and only one of its kind in the nation. It brings to six the number of PCMI programs at Tech, the most offered by any university in the country.
Michigan Tech has PCMI programs in Applied Science Education, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Forestry, Mitigation of Natural Geological Hazards, Rhetoric and Technical Communication and now, Mechanical Engineering.
The programs combine academic study with supervised, practical field experience and research. After completing a program of on-campus academic work, Peace Corps Master's International students serve two years with the Peace Corps. Then they return to Michigan Tech for one additional semester to complete their degree requirements.
"People often don't think about mechanical engineering in connection with the Peace Corps," said Bill Predebon, chair of the department, "but many Peace Corps projects, such as pumps and indigenous energy systems, demand mechanical engineering skills."
One focus of the new program in mechanical engineering will be identification and use of appropriate technologies in developing countries. "For technology to be effective, it should meet a need, but also take into account available local resources and capabilities," explained John Gershenson, professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics and a codirector of the new Peace Corps graduate program. "It also needs to integrate well with local customs and lifestyles."
The Peace Corps program is likely to shake up the image of mechanical engineering, predicted Michele Miller, an associate professor of mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics and codirector of the new program. "Peace Corps students will apply their skills in much different ways than our traditional mechanical engineering master's degree students," she said. "I expect they will educate faculty and students back at Michigan Tech about what is possible and what is needed in our discipline."
The first students will begin the new Peace Corps program in fall 2009.