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NMSU horticulture graduate student heading to Peace Corps Nepal

FARMINGTON ? For Katie McCarver, horticulture is the link between cultures.


Woman and man looking a magazine.
Peace Corps Master?s International graduate student Katie McCarver reviews information about the program with New Mexico State University advisor Kevin Lombard, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences associate professor of horticulture. McCarver, the first College of ACES student to participate in the Master?s International program, will serve two years in Nepal before returning to NMSU to complete her master?s degree. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

The New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences graduate student is combining her love of travel and learning about new cultures with her love of raising plants as she embarks on the life of a Peace Corps volunteer in the Master?s International program.

Master?s International provides the unique opportunity for students to earn their master?s degree while serving in the Peace Corps.

Two NMSU colleges ? ACES and Health and Social Services ? offer the program to current or incoming students. McCarver is the first such student for NMSU?s ACES. College of Health and Social Services has three students in the program, two currently serving overseas and one in the first year of graduate school.

?Students complete the first year of graduate coursework on campus before serving a two-year term in Peace Corps,? said Peace Corps alumni Mick O?Neill, professor of agronomy at NMSU?s Agricultural Science Center at Farmington, who coordinates two Peace Corps programs in ACES.

?After serving 27 months in the Peace Corps, they return to the academic institution to finish their graduate work, while writing a project report or research thesis on what they did while serving overseas.?

Many Master?s International students are assigned to countries and placed in a project that will be appropriate for their interests, or those of their research advisers. In McCarver?s case, that adviser is Kevin Lombard, horticulturalist at Farmington ASC.

?As a returned Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania and more recently short-term Peace Corps Response volunteer in Namibia, I value the mission of Peace Corps and am thrilled to be Katie?s adviser,? Lombard said. ?She also has a great, supportive committee consisting of myself, Mark Uchanski of the Plant and Environmental Sciences Department; and Lois Stanford in the Department of Anthropology.

?Many of the same agricultural issues Katie will encounter while in the Peace Corps, we encounter in northwest New Mexico. The coursework and practical experience she has been gaining in the PES department and ASC-Farmington should give her a solid start when she begins her Peace Corps assignment and in-country research later this fall.?

McCarver discovered the world of horticulture while working for her uncle?s landscaping company. The Memphis native grew up in the suburb where there was very little farming, and her parents did not garden.

?I went to college initially for music, but I realized I didn?t like it,? she said. ?I left school for a year to figure things out. That?s when I fell in love with plants.?

She decided to combine her love of plants and her enjoyment of working with people by pursuing a bachelor?s degree in public horticulture at the University of Tennessee.

?I did internships in two different public gardens, one at UT and one at Michigan State University, where I was the garden manager,? she said. ?The whole goal of demonstration gardens is to reconnect people with horticulture and plants.?

When McCarver reports to the Peace Corps in September, she will begin preparing for her assignment as an agricultural volunteer in Nepal. She will be one of 40 volunteers working on various aspects of Peace Corps Nepal?s food security project.

?Most Nepalese are subsistence farmers,? McCarver said of Nepal, where the rate of unemployment or under-employment approaches half of the working-age population.

While she doesn?t know the exact location where she will be working, McCarver said she has received a list of subjects that includes working with women farmers to overcome different agricultural issues, food security issues and health related issues that have to do with nutrition, hygiene and sanitation.

Peace Corps Nepal?s additional goals include improving access to diverse and nutritious foods through improved agricultural productivity; and helping individuals and groups adopt skills and strategies to reduce risk and vulnerability to food insecurity.

Peace Corps Nepal, according to its website, currently has one project, a food security project, which was implemented in collaboration with United States Agency for International Development and the Government of Nepal. The project involves the Global Health Initiative in collaboration with the ministry of health and population, and Feed the Future in collaboration with the ministry of agricultural development.

The goal of GHI is to improve the nutritional status of women and children under two through increased homestead food production, improved water supplies, sanitation and hygiene, and better maternal, newborn and child health care.

The FTF goal is to sustainably reduce poverty and hunger by achieving inclusive growth in the agriculture sector, increase income of farm families and improving nutritional status, especially of women and children.

?I?m looking forward to helping reach these goals,? McCarver said. ?And, to learn about the culture of this county that is situated in the Great Himalayan Range.?