July 30, 2010 in City

Gonzaga grad student combines studies, Peace Corps

Bound for Nicaragua, Megan McCann is first from Washington to explore new offering
By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photo

Megan McCann, above, an undergrad from Oregon, chats with fellow teacher Piah Song, right, in the COG building at Gonzaga University on Friday, July 30, 2010. McCann will be the first Peace Corps/master’s degree student at Gonzaga University.
(Full-size photo)

Peace Corps
The Peace Corps mission is to promote world peace and friendship through sending qualified volunteers to countries in need of trained manpower and teaching those in foreign countries about Americans, according organization’s website.

Megan McCann’s love of the Spanish language has given her the chance to earn graduate-degree credits from Gonzaga while serving in the Peace Corps.

She is the first from Washington to participate in the education-sector of the Peace Corps Master’s International, or PCMI, program. The Oregon native leaves next month for Nicaragua, where for 28 months she will train teachers and teach English as a foreign language at a high school.

“It’s pretty exciting to be one of the first PCMI students at Gonzaga,” McCann said. “I studied in Mexico for six weeks and it was not enough. I’m looking forward to working in and becoming part of a community.”

McCann, who is getting her master’s in teaching English as a second language, has spent the past year at the Jesuit university; she’ll return in January 2013 to complete her thesis.

Currently, “there are 20 PCMI partner universities in the United States with an education-sector program,” said Melanie Forthun, a Peace Corps spokeswoman. Gonzaga is the only one in Washington.

“While the Peace Corps serves in many sector areas, education is the largest, with approximately one-third of Peace Corps assignments falling into this category,” Forthun said. “It’s also the area experiencing the most growth with more countries requesting English teachers from the Peace Corps. The agency is actively recruiting to fill thousands of volunteer positions.”

Washington State University offers a PCMI in environmental and public health anthropology. University of Washington offers programs in global health, forestry and public affairs, Forthun said. So far, 69 people have completed the PCMI program through Washington universities.

Volunteers serving abroad receive a living allowance on par with local wages equivalent to what their colleagues would be making in that community, “which might be modest compared to America, but enough to live a healthy, happy lifestyle,” Forthun said. Their housing as well as medical and dental coverage also will be provided.

McCann, who has a bachelor’s degree from Western Oregon University, heard about the partnership between the Peace Corps and Gonzaga from a friend.

McCann grew up near Salem, Ore. where the Hispanic population is more than 25 percent, according to U.S. Census.

While she was working on her bachelor’s in elementary education, she did her student teaching at a Salem school where 50 percent of the students were of that ethnicity. With her Peace Corps posting, she’ll be able to put that experience to work.

“I love Spanish,” she said. “I love working with the students who are native speakers. I like using both languages in the classroom.”

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