Johara Henriquez is a food technologist who wants to implement cleaner food production in her country, the Dominican Republic. She also wants “to become the next Ban Ki-moon.” Jamille Chin, who is from Jamaica, is studying political science. Her motivation to clean up Kingston Harbor was cemented after someone told her she could never do it. Marianne Ricord of Panama has always been interested in biology, and dreams of working at the Smithsonian. All of them, incidentally, want to get Master’s degrees at Oregon State.
But they wouldn’t have known about OSU without the Study of the U.S. Institute for the Environment SUSIE , a program for Central American and Caribbean undergraduates that emphasizes all things water – sanitation, watersheds, citizen stewardship and infrastructure, to name a few. This summer, SUSIE brought 22 students from 8 countries to OSU to spend the summer immersed in multi-disciplinary environmental studies. It’s the first time the program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Study of the U.S. Institutes, has come to Oregon State. The program is led by the Institute for Water and Watersheds (IWW) and International Programs.
“We’re trying to show them similar or common problems between Oregon and their countries,” says Michael Campana, professor of geosciences and former head of the IWW at Oregon State. “We want to show them how we deal with problems here, so that when they go back to their countries they can say, ‘I spent five weeks in the U.S. Let’s see if what they’ve implemented therecan work here.’”
Campana co-directs SUSIE along with Marion McNamara of International Programs. Participating faculty are Anna Harding, Ken Williamson, Christine Kelly and Todd Jarvis. Evan Miles, Jessica Nischik and Kate Swenson are the student assistants.
The SUSIE students, who range in age from 18 to 24, spent their time in the classroom as well as on field trips that emphasized the relationship of water in environmental sciences, public health, engineering, policy and governance. They traveled to the greater Portland area to visit the DEQ laboratory water and wastewater treatment plants. They went to Marys Peak to look at watershed restoration issues. Along the way they talked to professors, government agencies, and citizens from a host of environmental organizations throughout the state.
The students spent their last week in Washington, D.C., visiting the World Bank, USAID, and presenting the results of their course projects before representatives of the Department of State and Fulbright Program, and personnel from their own embassies.
“They’re aware of the problems in their own countries, and several are amazed at the infrastructure we have here,” says Campana. “They’re intrigued by citizens’ participation, too. They look at groups like the Willamette Riverkeepers and ask, ‘What can these groups do that governments cannot?'”
The program is already inspiring the students to take action when they return home. Henriquez has decided to start cleaning up a watershed near her home in Santiago. She wants to educate people on the necessity of keeping it clean – for their own use, as well as for the fish that fishermen rely on.
“They have an insatiable desire to learn everything,” says Campana, who hopes to continue the SUSIE program next year. “Their personalities are great. They’re really sharp, and stay on top of things.”