Meet four graduates from the Class of 2014

Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: December 4th, 2014

Marianela Chaves Rivera

(’14, Costa Rica)

What are your plans after graduation?
My goal is to work for a few years, gain some experience and then launch my own company. I have a lot of ideas for my business; most of them have to do with irrigation and drainage because I love working in water management. I’ve always known that water was an important resource, but it wasn’t until I went to Ethiopia for my internship last year that I realized its incredible value.

What is the best advice you’ve been given at the University?
When I first arrived, one thing that everyone said was “Work with a good attitude.” I took it to heart and I tried to do my best, even if I was exhausted or couldn’t stand to think about going to yet another meeting. I think it’s going to serve me well in my professional life.

What does your family think about the education you’ve received at EARTH?
I think the best gift I will receive this December is seeing the smiles of my parents and knowing that they are happy and proud. EARTH helps you to mature, grow as a person and to open your eyes to the world.

Juan Sebastían Camacho Dávalos

(’14, Ecuador)

Why did you choose to study at EARTH?
Although I was raised in the city, I always went to my family’s farm on weekends and vacations. I grew up with cows and horses and developed a passion for working in the field; I’ve known that I wanted to study agronomy since I was 12 years old. When the time came to look for colleges, the counselor introduced me to EARTH and I fell in love with the mission and focus of the University.

Tell us about your graduation project.
The goal of the project was to evaluate an intensive cattle grazing system here on EARTH’s dairy farm, using the existing conventional system as a control. We found that by dividing the pasture into many smaller fields and having the cows graze in a different space every day, we could optimize resources without adding agrochemicals or fertilizers. As a result, our cows tripled their milk production in just eight months, the soil is healthier and it produces better plants. This system is very functional and affordable and I believe it is one of the best solutions for making dairy farming more sustainable. I will definitely implement it on my family’s farm when I return home.

How has EARTH changed you?
For me, the biggest way EARTH has changed me is to break the barriers that I had created in my mind. I arrived knowing very little about life outside Ecuador, and at EARTH I found so many cultures, religions, countries and realities different from mine. I learned that before judging another person, I should judge myself a thousand times. Today, I am a completely different Juan Sebastián and I am so thankful to the University for that.

Issa Daniela Secaira

(’14, Guatemala)

During the graduation ceremony, the University awarded Issa Daniela Secaira the 2014 EARTH Prize in recognition of her academic excellence, values, and social and environmental commitment.

What are your plans for after graduation?
I’m looking into master’s programs in sustainable agriculture, most likely in the United States, Germany or here in Costa Rica. My long-term goal is to start a project with my family and have an integrated farm where I can grow and sell high-quality products, live the most sustainable life possible and create an open classroom to share everything I know. When I finally have my piece of land, whether it is one acre or 100, I’m going to be the happiest person in the world.

What are you going to miss most?
Firstly I’m going to miss my EARTH family-all of the people in this community are the ones who give life to this place and make it a home. I’m also going to miss the environment here: we have forests, rivers and 8,000 acres of campus to explore and you can see monkeys, toucans and other animals every single day. It will be very hard to find another place with such close contact to nature.

Why did you choose to study at EARTH?
Studying at EARTH was the best decision I could have made. I really liked the program here because it balances human activities with natural resource management and environmental conservation. I’ve always felt a big social commitment because I come from a very poor region of Guatemala and I want to create changes and improvements there and in the world as a whole.

Ibukun Timothy Ayankojo

(’14, Nigeria)

What are your plans after graduation?
I am going to do a two-year masters program in Soil Science and Agronomy at the University of Florida, focusing on research and fieldwork. After that, I will go home to Nigeria.

What does your family think about the education you’ve received at EARTH?
My family really appreciates this opportunity because they know the value of education, even though they did not have it: my dad finished sixth grade and my mother never had a day in class. We are eight children in my family and all of us are educated. My parents did everything in their power to make sure we could go to school.

What is the best advice you’ve been given at the University?
I will never forget my arrival at EARTH: my student visa took a long time to process and I had to start classes without knowing a word of Spanish. Professor Patricia Montero from the Spanish Program helped me out a lot that year and one day we were talking in the hallway and a fourth-year Mozambican student passed by speaking perfect Spanish and I felt so down about my lack of language skills. I told Patricia, “I wish I could speak like him someday,” and she looked me right in the eye and said “Timothy you are good enough to do the same thing, in fact you can be even better.” She really inspired me that day and she was right–I did become fluent.


  1. Addisu Dulacha says:

    Very interesting history. My thump is up for you guys. I learnt many thing from you. i love that word of my teacher of spanish program and big sister“ tú también puedes hacerlo, de hecho, puedes ser hasta mejor que él”. It real inspired me.
    Wish all the best to all of you!

  2. Terry Mills says:

    Congratulations on accomplishing your goals and living your dreams. Humanity is better for all the good things you are doing! Namaste.

  3. Juan Rene Cruz says:

    Felicidades a todos los graduados de la Universidad Promoción 2014. Junto aportaremos al aprovechamiento de los recursos naturales del mundo. Saludos cordiales.

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