ACES delegates strengthen ties in Honduras

ACES delegates with Zamarano  students

Three representatives from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) traveled to Honduras in November to strengthen Illinois ties with Zamorano Pan-Agricultural School, one of the premier agricultural universities in Central America, and the research program at Alliance Bioversity and CIAT.

Representing ACES were Mary Arends-Kuenning, acting associate dean of International Programs; Lauren Karplus, assistant director of International Programs; and Carmen Ugarte, research assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences.

ACES and Zamorano have many existing ties, and after spending two days there and one day at CIAT, the trio identified additional opportunities for ACES research collaborations at both entities.

“We currently have multiple Zamorano graduates as ACES faculty members, and many more who have come through ACES for advanced degrees or internships. We hope to continue to attract talented individuals from Zamorano,” Karplus noted.

Specifically, the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) has a long-standing program funded by James Albrecht to bring Zamorano students to intern with FSHN faculty members. This program has recently expanded to also fund a master’s degree in FSHN for a Zamorano graduate.

The group visited multiple departments at Zamorano to see the instruction and research firsthand.

“We were impressed by their highly experiential ‘learning by doing’ model of instruction in every unit,” notes Karplus.

For example, freshman students are given a "parcela" on which they must all grow the same vegetables, applying the lessons they're learning in class about vegetable plant development and production.

To familiarize Zamorano students with the University of Illinois, the ACES delegation hosted two informational sessions. The first presentation was attended by 40 third-year students. The second presentation was as guest speakers in a research methods class, where they encouraged students to consider graduate school and provided insight into their own research methods.

The ACES delegation then visited CIAT headquarters in Tegucigalpa to learn more about its research portfolio, which serves to improve smallholder farming productivity and the transformation of food systems in Honduras. ACES alum Federico Ceballos Sierra hosted a visit to a research project focused on female coffee growers in the mountainous coffee-growing regions.

The trip inspired multiple ideas and possibilities for future research collaborations in several areas and will likely result in more graduate student applications from Zamorano students.