The Cornell MPA for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers: Everything You Need to Know





Why Should RPCVs Get an MPA?

Many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) are choosing to get a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree after completing their Peace Corps career — here’s why.

  1. Peace Corps Volunteers are mission-driven and results-oriented professionals. Getting an MPA allows RPCVs to continue improving lives in the world around them.

  2. The skills and tools learned in the Peace Corps are a perfect fit for the interdisciplinary nature of an MPA degree.

  3. RPCVs value experiential learning. In other words, they learn by doing. Getting an MPA will allow RPCVs to continue to learn in a hands-on environment.

There are many other reasons why getting an MPA is a strategic and fulfilling choice for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. We outline several more reasons in our blog article 5 Reasons Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are Seeking Graduate Degrees in Public Administration.

5 Reasons Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are Seeking Graduate Degrees in Public Administration:

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Cornell & The Peace Corps Community

  • Ithaca currently ranks as No. 3 among metropolitan areas for the highest number of Peace Corps volunteers per capita, with 9.8 volunteers per 100,000 residents. 
  • Cornell has also just been announced as the No. 21 Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities list among schools with between 5,000 and 15,000 undergraduate students.
  • In 2018, 16 Cornell students were involved with the Peace Corps and, according to the organization, 1,678 Cornell alumni have participated since the Peace Corps’ inception – 400 more than the next closest Ivy League school, Harvard University (2018 stat).
  • Throughout the last decade, as Ithaca has stayed high in the overall community Peace Corps participation rankings, Cornell has been in the top 25 among colleges its size as well.

“As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I chose Cornell’s MPA primarily because of the flexibility and size of the program, as well as the Cornell brand. My initial concentration was Human Rights and Social Justice, which I switched to Public and Nonprofit Management once I realized the latter was more relevant to my career path.

Cornell’s MPA helped prepare me for a career focused on homelessness and affordable housing by enabling me to take classes with both short- and long-term benefits—from affordable housing policy and real estate development to spreadsheet modeling and nonprofit management and finance. Even more importantly, the Cornell MPA alumni network helped me get a summer internship in my field that turned into a full-time job offer.”

Sharlene Castle, Cornell MPA '18, Program Manager at Jaydot  

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About Cornell's MPA And The Coverdell Fellowship:

As someone who is passionate about representing underserved communities, you will find that an MPA is the perfect degree for launching careers focused on making the world a better place. Cornell University's MPA program is specifically committed to "training leaders, improving lives."

Your Peace Corps experience may have triggered an interest in a specific area of policy study. Our interdisciplinary MPA program will allow you to explore that interest through solid foundational coursework and eight degree concentrations, including International Development Studies.

Because you can take concentration courses from Colleges and programs across the University, you will be able to work with leading experts in your area of policy specialization, allowing you to develop cutting-edge expertise in your field. Which of these concentrations will you choose?

  • Economic and Financial Policy
  • Environmental Policy
  • Government, Politics and Policy Studies
  • Human Rights and Social Justice
  • International Development Studies
  • Public and Nonprofit Management
  • Science, Technology and Infrastructure Policy
  • Social Policy

The Paul D. Coverdell Fellowship is a graduate fellowship program that offers significant financial assistance to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers dedicated to impacting real, tangible change in a variety of fields related to public management and policy analysis. The chart below is a breakdown of the benefits of the Coverdell Fellowship:

Benefits for Coverdell Fellows in Cornell's MPA Program Chart


Ready to take the next step toward earning your MPA?

Cornell partners with the Peace Corps to offer RPCVs a Coverdell Fellowship.  Please click below to learn more about this fellowship, or start your MPA journey by contacting Thomas O’Toole, the Executive Director of Cornell’s MPA program. 

About the Coverdell Fellowship            Contact the Executive Director

Ready to begin your application to Cornell’s MPA?

We understand that the graduate school application process can be challenging to navigate. In order to simplify the process for you, we’ve included a list of “next steps” for you right here. You can also visit our Application Process page to learn more.

STEP 1: Contact Thomas O’Toole, Executive Director and RPCV Coordinator at CIPA. He will be able to answer questions regarding eligibility, academics, as well as respond to specific questions about your specific interests and professional goals.

STEP 2: Complete online application form and submit unofficial transcripts.

STEP 3: Submit your resume, 3 letters of recommendation, Statement of Purpose, and an Essay.

STEP 4: On the application’s payment page, use the Graduate School’s Application Fee Waiver form. This form will be submitted simultaneously.

STEP 5: Await email instructions to participate in an online interview in order to complete your application.

Start Your Application Today

Additional Cornell MPA Resources:

Wondering what it’s like to be an MPA student at Cornell? Have questions about the admissions process? Interested in hearing about hands-on learning opportunities and career outcomes? You’re in luck because we have a variety of resources that are all designed to tell you exactly what you need to know about getting an MPA and jumpstarting a career in the field of public management or public affairs.

We encourage you to explore the rest of our downloadable PDFs and digital guides.

Cornell MPA Guide Cover-min

An Educational Guide for Future Leaders in Public Affairs

View Digital Guide

Download PDF

Cornell Domestic Policy eBookcover

Enacting Change: Tailoring Your MPA to Focus on Policy in the United States

View Digital Guide

Download PDF

Cornell MPA Guide Cover copy

Uncovering the Real Value of Cornell University's MPA Degree

View Digital Guide

Download PDF