By: Mollie Lastovica
A team of teaching and research instructors from Texas A&M University and the University of Georgia embarked on a journey to Peru July 31 – August 8 to end a two and a half-year project with Peru’s Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina. Among this team were Professor Gary Wingenbach, Ph.D. and Professor Gary Briers, Ph.D. who are both faculty members in the ALEC department.
Since its genesis in 2010, the Peru project has been a collaborative effort to improve agricultural education and research at UNALM. The team was divvied into the focus areas of research and teaching and has been working to instruct faculty members from UNALM in those respective categories.
“About seventy faculty from the university participated representing all disciplines from animal and food science to aquaculture and agricultural economics,” Wingenbach says. “Participating faculty members assisted in identifying competencies they lacked in the classroom and in their research and from there we were able to bring those together and help them out.”
Their August trip marked the fifth visit to Peru for Briers and Wingenbach as a part of this project. One component that was unique to this visit was the implementation of a teaching and research poster contest for the faculty they were aiding.
“A very important part of the August workshop was the poster competition held on August 1,” Wingenbach says. “We had a call for posters in two categories—teaching and research and had over 20 entrants. We awarded prizes to the top three posters in research and in teaching and even developed an additional ‘Integration of Research and Teaching’ category and awarded prizes there as well.”
The winning posters covered topics such as “Pesticide Resistance in the Peruvian Spodoptera frugiperda Population,” “Application of Methodologies to Encourage Research at UNALM through the Study of Purple Corn Arequipean chicha type Fermentation,” and “Learning with a Case Study: The Effect of Price Increase of Imported Wheat on Bread Production.” Briers, who worked on the teaching team, noted the growth in faculty participants at UNALM over the years.
“For most, this was their first time to do posters and presentations which was a really neat thing,” Briers says. “It was amazing how much they came out of their shell over the years and how they can now lead other people.”
Although the group was disappointed about the project ending due to the expiration of funding, both Briers and Wingenbach assure that there are bright things in store for the team and those who worked with the faculty at UNALM. Wingenbach can see the product of their work in the efforts of UNALM.
“It is always good to make connections with faculty at other universities as it leads to future collaboration whether in teaching or research,” Wingenbach says. “One of those connections has been able to help us co-host a symposium, ‘Innovation of University Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources in Andean Countries,’ which will take place within a year. The expansion of our project will be realized through this conference.”
The conference will not only highlight some of the teaching and research methods UNALM faculty learned from the United States’ team of instructors, but it also brings a focus on innovation in education in agriculture and natural resources to areas of the world who have not been able to host a conference at this caliber before.
For Briers, seeing the metamorphosis in UNALM faculty over their time working together allows him to speak confidently about the future.
“The professional and personal relationships we built are long lasting,” Briers says. “For many of them, the idea of world involvement hasn’t really been seen like it is now. They never thought of themselves as world citizens and they are now able to understand the concept of acting locally and thinking globally. We recognized that we all can learn together and we have the knowledge, skills and attitudes that can be shared and of value to one another.”