By: Taylor Demski
ALEC students and faculty experienced the culture and agriculture of Namibia while on a 24 day study abroad from July 6 to July 30. Participants included seven undergraduate, five graduate students and two faculty members. Associate Professor and Associate Department Head for Undergraduate Programs Tracy Rutherford, Ph.D., and Professor and Senior Scientist for the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture Gary Wingenbach, Ph.D., led the study abroad trip..
“For the students I think the biggest impact was seeing that it wasn’t as different as they thought it was going to be. They expected it to be 180 degrees different than what they are used to in the US,” Rutherford says.
While in Namibia students spent two weeks on college campuses, earning six hours of course credit. The courses offered to the undergraduate students were ALED 440 Principals of Technological Change and AGCJ 404 Communication Agricultural Information to the Public. Graduate students were enrolled in ALEC 604 Writing for Professional Publication and either ALEC 685 Directed Studies or ALEC 691 Research.
Whenever they weren’t in the classroom doing coursework students were out looking at how agricultural practices differ between Namibia and the US. They had the opportunity to go on multiple cultural excursions, including seeing a women’s cooperative and visiting a tannery, where leather is manufactured out of animal hides. These visits allowed the students the opportunity to recognize the global importance of agriculture.
While in Namibia, students volunteered at a conservancy managed by the Cheetah Conservation Fund where they were in charge of designing posters and educational materials directed at children. Around 2,500 children visit the conservancy every year. Work at CCF combined students’ knowledge of agriculture with figuring out how to communicate key messages to a specific audience. “The cheetahs were absolutely breathtaking,” says junior agribusiness major Leighton James. “One of the greatest joys of being there was working with the staff. (They) were especially helpful and kind. We learned how CCF is encouraging harmony between agriculture and wildlife conservation.”
“The study abroad put that connection together between why is agriculture important with a leadership or a communications degree and how do you use that to your advantage,” says Rutherford. “I don’t think students see a lot of that in the classroom but when they got to go apply it in a whole different context. It was ‘Wow agriculture really is science and knowing this makes me much more able to work with these different audiences.’”
“I’m fortunate because some of the best parts of my trip get to come home with me. Although I may never cross paths with these individuals in Africa again, I can’t wait to see them back at home, hear about their success and learn even more from them. This is my Aggie family, and we’ll always have the times we spent under African skies,” James says.
For student’s personal accounts of the trip to Namibia visit students’ blog