Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Social Sciences

Advisor 1

Carol MacLennan

Committee Member 1

Kari Henquinet

Committee Member 2

John Gierke

Abstract

Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) students engage in international development when they assume the role of Volunteer and graduate researcher. Michigan Technological University had the largest PCMI program in the country, with many Volunteer assignments involving environmental problem solving opportunities. Unfortunately some PCMI students have experienced “failed projects,” something not un-common to international development approaches. This research design supports institutional interdisciplinary efforts aimed at preparing PCMI students to engage in productive community development that avoids historic pitfalls of international development efforts. In order to contribute to this effort, the Rapid Assessment Process (RAP) approach was identified as a potential tool to help PCMI student and was adapted as a case study in Guatemala. The case study examined the feasibility of a PCMI student implementing a RAP to better understand their community and to collaborate more effectively in the design and implementation of environmental solving projects. The case study was complemented by extensive qualitative interaction with the Michigan Tech Peace Corps community.

The results from this investigation highlight the success of implementing the RAP case study and the identified benefits for PCMI students to use social science methods in a systematic way to approach environmental problem-solving. Recommendations are made for its implementation in the preparation, training, and advising of future PCMI students and for broader application by internationally engaged students at Michigan Tech. Using social science tools to develop a holistic understanding and collaboratively define a problem is important to the formation of sound and effective policy and best practices for effective and appropriate international development work.