Francisco Aguilar Cabezas (’98, Ecuador)
Like many of our planet’s rural residents, Francisco Aguilar’s father left the Ecuadorian countryside looking for better opportunities in the city. Ironically, the opportunity for Francisco to study abroad at EARTH has led him back to the countryside his father left behind to promote a more sustainable present and future.
After graduating from EARTH University in 1998, Francisco volunteered with various organizations working with marginalized groups in his native Ecuador, as well as in India, Sri Lanka and the United States. He completed a Master in Science in Sustainable Development, and returned to Ecuador to work with the Office of the First Lady as a technical officer for the national Integrated Community Farming Program.
Motivated by a passion for research and teaching, he later earned his doctorate at Louisiana State University and joined the faculty of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Missouri in 2007 – where he continues to this day. In addition to being an Associate Professor in the Department of Forestry, Francisco serves on a team of specialists on sustainable forest products for the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Europe and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“I love research and enjoy how my teaching complements it. On a daily basis I work on projects with colleagues in West Africa, South America, Europe and Asia. I am very fortunate to be able to have a global impact with locally-devised applied research projects. I can then share that knowledge through my University-level teachings.”
Francisco mentors MS and PhD students and postdoctoral fellows from around the globe, and advises undergraduate students. He sees the multiplier effect of his work, as his former students have gone on to establish foundations, develop sustainable development projects, engage in critical research projects, and influence public policy decisions.
He credits EARTH with having helped him strengthen his respect of different viewpoints and his capacity for teamwork, both of which have been instrumental in his life and current role in academia.
“EARTH unquestionably set me on a path of global citizenry. I learned to interact with fellow students from across the Americas and work together as a team to solve real-life problems. Today I find myself doing that. Working with colleagues around the world trying to solve local problems that, hopefully, compound to a more sustainable future.”
His responsibility to fulfill EARTH’s mission is ever-present, but, he adds that it “is a challenging yet gratifying aim. My contribution to EARTH’s mission is through my mentoring of young scholars, research, and teaching.”