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Stephen M.Hills, associate professor of business and a 1967 Peace Corps volunteer who lived in Venezuela, works in Peace Corps/MBA Program
M.B.A. degree joins Peace Corps, OSU
Wednesday, September 13, 2000
Alice Thomas Dispatch Higher Education Reporter
A child of the 1960s and an upand-comer are joining forces at Ohio State University.
Starting this academic year, the Peace Corps and the OSU Fisher College of Business are collaborating to offer a program that combines an M.B.A. degree with overseas volunteering -- called the "MI,'' or Master's International.
The two might seem to be strange bedfellows, but the global economy has carved out a niche for people with divergent talents.
"Business is one of the fastest- growing areas of the Peace Corps,'' said Linda Schmitz, a Peace Corps regional manager in Chicago.
The Peace Corps was founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy to promote world peace and friendship.
Its volunteers are in 134 countries, helping to start small businesses, building homes, installing clean-water systems, educating children and helping stop the spread of AIDS.
At an information session attended by M.B.A. students yesterday, Schmitz cited the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and democratic reforms in Latin America and Africa as two factors that have contributed to a growing need for business know-how.
"More and countries are looking to transition their economies,'' Schmitz said. She said the former Soviet Union is especially desperate for help.
Peace Corps volunteers -- perhaps better known for digging wells and teaching English -- also have helped Armenians create a business plan for their first FM radio station and helped Filipinos market handmade baskets, Schmitz said.
In all, about 1,000 of the 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers worldwide are involved in teaching business skills, she said.
The hopes are that the new program -- which is not a separate degree, but still an M.B.A. -- will be a recruiting tool for the Peace Corps and provide valuable grooming for future business professionals.
Joseph Alutto, dean of the Fisher College, said business executives are looking to hire people with diverse experiences.
"The richness of experience becomes a critical factor,'' Alutto said.
Brent Harders, 29, spent two years in Papua New Guinea teaching English in high school. He came back to the United States in 1996 and started looking for work.
"It was tough,'' he said.
He enrolled in OSU's M.B.A. program, which takes two years. After graduating, finding a job wasn't a problem, said Harders, an analyst for Andersen Consulting.
The new program requires students to be accepted into both the Peace Corps and the M.B.A. program. After one year in business school, they go through training for several months and are sent abroad for two years. They then come back for another year of classes, said Stephen M. Hills, associate professor of business and a 1967 Peace Corps volunteer who lived in Venezuela.
Students don't get college credit for work overseas, but they might be able to test out of some requirements -- such as language courses -- when they return, Hills said. Students earn a small monthly allowance -- ranging from $100 to $500, depending on the area -- and a lump sum of $6,500 when they return. The money is paid for by the Peace Corps.
The Fisher College of Business, started with a $20 million donation from 1930 OSU graduate Max M. Fisher, opened in 1998.