In the late 1980s, after the Costa Rican Congress passed the law creating EARTH, with the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we gathered an international team of leaders in agricultural higher education to design the EARTH University academic model.
We started with our mission—to prepare leaders to contribute to the sustainable development of the humid tropics and to construct a prosperous and just society—and began working backward, breaking paradigms in higher education in order to ensure graduates with the competencies necessary to fulfill this mission. These competencies were then grouped into four formative areas: social and environmental awareness and commitment, technical and scientific knowledge, ethical entrepreneurship, and positive values, becoming the foundation of our curriculum. When we got down to how we were going to teach, we decided to place our emphasis on learning, leading to the dynamic, individualized and participatory educational process that characterizes our model today.
More than two decades later, while we are continually evaluating and improving upon this model, it remains fundamentally the same and more importantly, has proven effective in producing leaders with the commitment and capacity to foster positive change in their families, communities and countries.
In recent years there has been increased interest from the global academic community for a written description of our model. I’m pleased to share with you that this month we published a summary of our academic model in three languages on our website (earth.ac.cr), and will be adding comprehensive descriptions of our model’s fundamental components in both Spanish and English.
We invite you to learn more about EARTH’s one-of-a-kind approach to higher education, which at its core regards each and every student as a human being with unique skills and aspirations to be discovered and nurtured.
A keystone course in the University’s experiential learning model is the 15-week internship all students complete during the last trimester of their third year. Besides working at a business or non-profit organization, students serve the community with at least 65 hours of volunteer work or by organizing a community development project.
Originally, students were encouraged to intern in their home countries to establish professional contacts and gain local experience that would help them find employment following graduation. EARTH Provost, Daniel Sherrard, acknowledges that over the years leadership became more open to internships abroad in recognition of the globalized era we live in.
Today, more students seek valuable international experience and new ideas. In recent years, more than 60 percent have chosen internships in countries other than their homeland. This September, of the 102 third-year students, 69 will be traveling abroad.
Manuela María Gil Echeverría (‘13, Costa Rica) is excited to intern at the Kyusei Nature Farming Training Center, in Thailand’s Saraburi province. “In this country, there is a very rich culture, which I hope to learn from and to really get to know well. I am very excited to do this internship and to return to my country with all of the knowledge I will have gained and apply it to my work and to my future in general,” she shares.
Her work will involve mushroom cultivation, aquaculture, and care for both pasture-fed pigs and hens. Throughout, she’ll learn to apply EMTM (Effective Microorganisms), a microorganism mixture that transforms organic waste into nutrient-rich compost. “I expect to learn a lot, both professionally and personally,” she says.
Dinocláudio Zacarías Rafael (‘13, Mozambique) is also traveling halfway around the globe, but with the hope of making a difference in his home country. He will be working with the Aga Khan Foundation in the Archipelago of Mozambique’s Quirimbas National Park and a partner organization, the Bilibiza Technical Secondary School, on a free-range chicken project and on installing one of the first bio-digesters in a nearby community. He looks forward to collaborating with retired EARTH Professor Panfilo Tabora, who first proposed the idea to him. While Dinocláudio laments that few Mozambican farmers know how to manage animal waste ecologically, he embraces bio-digesters as an excellent tool he can share with them.
“It’s a new technology for my country,” he says. “I’d like to implement it after I graduate… Before I came to the University, I saw potential in my country. But without knowledge, you can’t do anything. EARTH has provided me with training, knowledge and technology. The point is to do something different to develop my community and in time to develop my country.”
With his EARTH education and his genuine care for both people and the planet, he appears poised to achieve his goals.
Internships illuminate possibilities for students and energize them to fulfill their vision of a sustainable future for our world. Through the Community Engagement Fund, you can help support the internship program at EARTH.
Visit www.earth.ac.cr/support-earth/ to give today.
In July and August, EARTH welcomed two new Faculty members: Professor Kent McLeod (USA) who will teach the first-year English courses; and Professor José Cristino Melgar (Honduras) who will be responsible for the second-year Plant Disease Management course. With a Ph.D. in ESL/Multicultural Education from Texas A&M and more than 18 years in teaching English as a second language, Professor McLeod comes to EARTH from The University of Texas at Arlington English Language Institute where he most recently served as the listening-speaking coordinator. Professor Melgar holds a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Purdue University, and since 2001 has served as a plant pathologist at the Honduras Foundation for Agricultural Research (Fundación Hondureña de Investigación Agrícola or FHIA).
On August 1 – 2, EARTH University and the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications organized a public education program to teach citizens how to properly dispose of waste during Costa Rica’s largest public event, a religious pilgrimage known as the Romería. Partnering with the Catholic Church, municipalities, non-governmental organizations, private businesses and community members, the program involved more than 1,000 volunteers (including more than 400 EARTH students and staff) who supervised recycling stations and helped pilgrims classify their waste. Hailed as a great success by local press, the streets were clean following the two-day pilgrimage, and initial sampling of collection stations showed an approximately 96 percent classification accuracy. Funds raised from the sale of collected materials will benefit local municipalities and schools.
From May – August, more than 100 foreign-study students participated in EARTH University’s Summer Program Series. Courses were led by both visiting professors and EARTH faculty, and students came from some ten universities, including: Northeastern University, North Carolina A & T State University, Purdue University, Texas Tech University, Northwestern Michigan College, Alabama A&M University, Tuskegee University and Universidad Espiritu Santo in Ecuador. As part of the Summer Program Series, two sessions were offered by the Consortium for Sustainability, which unites ten premier universities in the United States and EARTH University with the common goal of providing a world-class study abroad program in a collaborative framework. The first Consortium session was Making Agriculture Sustainable and Carbon, Climate and Livelihoods in Tropical Agro-Forestry Systems; while the second session focused on Rural Tourism and Community Outreach, Leadership and Engagement.
EARTH entomology professor, Edgar Alvarado was appointed Academic Dean as of August 1, 2012. Dean Alvarado has a long history with EARTH, having served as the professor of the Second-Year Integrated Pest Management course since 1991. He was involved in the creation of EARTH’s academic model and has played a fundamental role in the Institution’s curricular reviews, academic coordination, strategic planning processes, student policies and global outreach. Highly-respected and liked by students, alumni, faculty and staff, Alvarado is well known for his insightful decision-making, close relationship with students and his leadership by example. Originally from Guatemala, Dean Alvarado holds a M.Sc. degree in Entomology from Louisiana State University in the United States.
Graduate Hugo Gonzenbach (‘07, Ecuador), co-owner of Metier Crafts, started the company he jointly owns with two friends, Diana Pazmiño and Alessandro Benecasa, in 2010. Through selling beautifully-woven straw “Panama” hats, Hugo and his friends strive “to aid rural communities by enforcing the survival of cultural traditions in the hands of talented craftsmen.”
In a short time, they have garnered international acclaim and a growing clientele–including director Steven Spielberg and his wife, actress Kate Capshaw. Highlights of 2012 have included touring the Polo U.S. Open and sponsoring the Hampton Classic Horse Show.
The company is also proud to have contributed scholarship support that enables the first student from the Galapagos Islands, Micaela Solís (‘14, Ecuador), to study at EARTH. Of the scholarship, Hugo and his friends share: “We have witnessed Galapagos’ need for a leader with a higher consciousness to contribute to the development of ecological healing and sustainable agriculture on the islands. Santa Cruz has its first EARTHling, and she is making the absolute most of her scholarship.”
Want to learn more? Visit our website to watch an interview with Metier Crafts’ co-owner Diana Pazmiño on CNN Mexico and to learn more about Micaela’s story.
Your tax-deductible contribution through EARTH University Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity, will help provide opportunities to young leaders who want to make a difference in the world but lack the resources to pursue a higher education.
Gifts to EARTH University Foundation can be made:
• Online at www.earth.ac.cr.
• By phone: 404-995-1235 (Mon-Fri, 8:30 am-5:00 pm ET)
• By mail: EARTH University Foundation;
Eight Piedmont Center Suite 520
3525 Piedmont Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30305
Office: 404-995-1348 / Fax: 404-995-1240
I did my internship in 2009 at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, in the Rural Extension Program for the Grand Island community. There I implemented a financial planning program for low-income families. As a result, the families, who were mostly Latino, measurably improved their finances. As one participant attested: “I now save eight dollars per day on food, and I prioritize my needs over my wants.”
I also gave talks on the causes and consequences of using methamphetamines (commonly known as “meth”). Additionally, I translated into Spanish a brochure on best parenting practices.
Living with a host family developed my capacity for acceptance, tolerance and respect, and created a very special tie with the family. My internship began one of the most important stages of my personal and professional growth. It inspired in me the feeling of independence that drives us to create, to do… and to transform our surroundings in a positive way – an effect we hope will multiply.
My internship definitely made a lasting impact on my life. It helped me to be even more responsible and committed than I was before and broadened my vision of our society’s realities today.
Willy returned to his native Dominican Republic following graduation in December 2010. Together with one of his brothers, he produced a film about his community to call attention to the country’s high levels of unemployment, especially for undereducated young people. The film was called “Yo quiero ser motoconcho” – which roughly translates as “I Want to Be a Motorcycle Taxi Driver”. After completing this project, Willy was selected for a year-long post-graduate internship in Florida, working in the production of ornamental plants for interiors. He then returned to the Dominican Republic, where he now works as a Junior Grower for CostaNursery.
Part of an ongoing series with donors on why they give.
Chris Blackwell is known worldwide as the founder of Island Records, the label that brought Bob Marley and the Wailers, U2 and others to fame. At EARTH, we also celebrate him as a faithful ally. He has provided generous scholarship funding, hosted internships and hired graduates.
Mr. Blackwell also owns Island Outpost, an exclusive hotel chain in Jamaica and the United States distinguished by its sustainability and social responsibility. The company actively supports all of the communities in which in operates and is committed to offering fresh, locally-produced food. In Jamaica, all of the properties are connected with Pantrepant Organic Farm.
A property of Island Outpost, Pantrepant has hundreds of acres of chemical-free land. Its main purpose is to grow organic produce and to raise livestock for hotel guests’ consumption.
Juan Ramón Aguilar (‘12, Costa Rica) interned at Pantrepant last year. There, he worked on a variety of projects related to organic agriculture, hydroponics, food preservation, waste management, medicinal plants and energy efficiency.
For Blackwell, the internships have proven an “excellent” experience. Of the past interns, he says, “They related very easily with the local culture, and their energy and enthusiasm promoted new ideas and inspiration.” He has already hired two EARTH graduates, Luis Rojas (‘11, Costa Rica) and Gustavo Díaz (‘07, Costa Rica) to work in permanent positions at Pentrepant.
This year, three new interns will have a turn to demonstrate what EARTH has taught them: Kenneth Navarro (‘13, Costa Rica), Christian Barrera (‘13, Costa Rica) and Lynhe Desmeyeux (‘13, Haiti). They will be working in the areas of animal production, crops and carbon neutrality.
Additionally, thanks to Chris Blackwell’s support, as well as that of Chairman of the EARTH University Foundation Board of Trustees Mark Ohrstrom, EARTH this year welcomed its first two Jamaican students, Tresha Shanece Samuels and Kevaughn Bonner. Both express gratitude for the opportunity.
“I never thought I would leave my country. It is a really great opportunity that I would like to make the most of,” Tresha affirms. “My intention is to return to Jamaica and share my knowledge about agriculture. I don’t know how I can repay Mr. Blackwell for what he has done for us – it is extraordinary.”
Blackwell offers housing both to EARTH graduates working for him and to EARTH interns. In this way, he is helping young leaders of change to shape Jamaica’s future in a positive way.
“I obviously am really hopeful they come back to Jamaica,” Blackwell remarks about his hopes for Tresha and Kevaughn. “Their knowledge and talent will be so precious in the further development of Jamaica’s agriculture, which in my opinion is the most valuable asset we have.”
We warmly thank Chris, Mark and our many other supporters for joining us in preparing young leaders.