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​​Engaging CASNR Students Abroad 

The number of students engaged abroad has quadrupled in CASNR during the last decade. Not only have student numbers increased, the types of international opportunities offered have expanded, including international undergraduate research activities, internships, and faculty-led short-term courses. Below, we highlight two of these new summer programs, as well as a recurring international funding opportunity.  

Research and Extension Experiential Learning for Undergraduates Fellowship Program: Belize 
Funded by USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the program brought together seven undergraduates from around the country and ten mentors from UT and the University of Florida to investigate smallholder farms practicing conservation, adjacent to and within the Vaca Forest Reserve in Belize. Students spent seven intensive weeks of field work in Belize in June and July collecting data on their respective projects. They will return next summer to deliver the Extension component of their research and will be accompanied by seven new students to be recruited soon.  
 
Participant Laura Vining, junior in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, explained, “I have a better understanding of how research projects work … and it gave me an idea of how graduate school may be.” Sarah Ottinger, junior in Environmental Soil Science, noted, “Because of this experience, I now feel more confident and capable of designing graduate-level projects.” Project Director Adam Willcox in the UTIA Office of International Programs and the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries was very impressed by the inaugural cohort of students. “Our fellows only had a few days to transition to life in Belize before having to jump into their projects. The mentors were there truly to only guide projects with a light hand as our student fellows networked with local partners and farmers, organized logistically complicated trips to the field, troubleshot sampling procedures, and truly immersed themselves in the experience. They stayed positive no matter how much rain, mud, or blazing sun the tropical rainforest gave us during our typical 6:30-5:00 working day.” Learn about their summer experience week by week.   
 
 
Ishmael from Friends and Conservation and Development and fellow Liz Becker on a Vaca Forest Reserve Farm


Milam International Scholars Program: Guatemala 
Funded by the Milam Family Opportunity Endowment, the scholars program provides exceptional students with internship opportunities in Guatemala. Amanda Kaeser, lead advisor of the program, explained that the Milams are very interested in getting students involved in helping to improve the lives of those living in Guatemala. “I’m hoping to build the program, getting at least four or five undergraduate or graduate students going each year…I think the knowledge and enthusiasm of the students is a benefit to our partners we work with and the people.”

Colin Brice, undergraduate in Plant Sciences and one of the two Milam Scholars, reflected on his experience. “Working for the Barbara Ford Peace Center was easily one of the greatest experiences I've ever had. I managed a large farm used to demonstrate profitable, sustainable farming practices…It was incredible to see the diverse expertise at the center and how that expertise combined into a thriving pursuit for good.”  

 
Colin Brice, Milam Scholar 2017


Undergraduate International Funding Opportunity
Last spring, the UTIA Office of International Programs offered thirteen CASNR students grants ranging from $200 to $500 through the Undergraduate Study Abroad Grants Program​, a biannual grant opportunity. Funding is often a barrier to students participating in international programs, and the UTIA Office of International Programs hopes to help students overcome this hurdle with this grant opportunity.   

Final Note: Mark your calendars for the UTIA International Showcase on Thursday, September 28, in Hollingsworth Auditorium to learn how faculty, students, and alumni are engaged abroad and to learn about upcoming student and faculty opportunities. The morning will focus on research and Extension experiences and the afternoon will host a study abroad fair highlighting all our faculty-led programs.