| by Caitlin Fillmore

News Stories

Webb, Scott
Career advisor Scott Webb is one of the many faculty, staff, and students at the Middlebury Institute who have served in the Peace Corps. He served in Niger from 1997 to 2001.

The Peace Corps has recognized Middlebury Institute as the top volunteer-producing small-sized graduate school since the agency was founded in 1961.

“Institute graduates are part of a strong tradition of global citizens who are big-hearted problem solvers and changemakers, so although I am not surprised, I am overjoyed to learn that Middlebury is No. 1 in this category,” said Brittney Ortega, a Bay Area-based recruiter for the Peace Corps.

The Institute has been a partner with the Peace Corps for more than 20 years, offering 50 percent tuition scholarships for Coverdell Peace Corps Fellows for the in-person master’s programs, and creating a welcoming environment to returned Peace Corps volunteers (RPCVs).

“Hearing the music of all of the foreign languages being spoken, I realized I had found my place,” said MBA alum Toni Thomas, who served in Costa Rica from 1995 to 1997.

Now associate dean of academic operations at the Institute, she often crosses paths with other faculty, staff, and student RPCVs on campus. Many come to the Institute after completing their service, while others complete Peace Corps after their master’s degrees. Current students have an option to integrate Peace Corps service into their degree program.

Meet Iao Harrowe

“The Peace Corps helped me get pretty serious, pretty fast about the business of development. Without the Peace Corps, I wouldn’t have had the proper entrées to go into international development as a career,” said Kent Glenzer, who now teaches many fellow RCPVs as an associate professor in the MPA in Social Change program. Glenzer served in Mali from 1983 to 1985 and spent 15 years working for large international NGOs.

“If you’re a young American looking to get out in the world and experience what it’s like to work and live in a new country, one of the only ways to do that is to be a Peace Corps volunteer,” said Scott Webb, career and academic advisor and an RPCV who served in Niger from 1997 to 2001. “When I have students who really want international experience, I definitely push them to the Peace Corps.”

Hands-On Learning in a Diverse Community

The Institute’s educational approach is a natural fit for Peace Corps volunteers.

“As a Peace Corps volunteer, you are hands on and getting things done. That’s how the Institute focuses on education. It’s participatory and active learning that aligns really well with the way Peace Corps thinks about the world and works to solve problems,” said career and academic advisor Lynn Foden, RPCV who served in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1984 to 1987. Foden continued working for the Peace Corps until 2012, after serving as chief of operations for Peace Corps Africa for six years.

Students also appreciate the international and multilingual student community—and having people who understand their experiences. 

“You will find someone on campus who speaks your language, no matter how obscure it may seem,” said Thomas.

“When you finish Peace Corps you have all of these stories you want to tell and a need to talk about that experience,” Webb said. “When you come to a school that has a lot of internationally focused students, it’s very comforting.”

Meet Kevin Heller

Meet Kevin Heller, Environmental Policy Student and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Mexico).

The student-driven Peace Corps Club hosts an annual Story Jam, mixers with RPCVs from the local community, film screenings, and more.

Many RPCVs leverage their master’s degree from the Institute to build a career that allows them to work internationally or in a multicultural environment and advance social change.

Thomas considers her time in the Peace Corps and then as a student at the Institute as turning points for her life.

“It allowed me to reset my life and go in a completely different direction in my professional path,” she said. “It’s the best choice I’ve made for myself as an adult.”