A New World View

A New World View
Back row, left to right: Makensie Brown, Stephanie Puhrmann, Dr. Melinda Coogan and Dr. James Hampton. Front row, left to right: Tesia Posekany, Laura Page, Kayla Hartmann and Jennifer Welch.

In January 2012, Makensie Brown, Kayla Hartmann, Laura Page, Tesia Posekany, Stephanie Puhrmann and Jennifer Welch, all sophomores, will serve as the University’s first Global Fellows as they travel to the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve in Cape Horn, Chile. There, they will participate in a program coordinated by the University of North Texas (UNT), the Universidad de Magallanes and the Chilean Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity. The UNT program includes a semester-long course that culminates with the Cape Horn experience.

“This is not just another interim trip; it’s unique in its design,” says Dr. Melinda Coogan, assistant professor of biology. “The students will become immersed in a pristine reserve and have the chance to explore and converse with biologists, environmental scientists, and cultural anthropologists, as well as local Chilean residents. My hope is that they come away from the experience with a different world view, and that they will then be able to verbalize what they have learned and relate it to local and global applications.”

Cape Horn is the southernmost point of land associated with South America. The dividing line between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans runs along the meridian of Cape Horn, and the region is lush with vegetation because of abundant precipitation. The biosphere reserve, where the students will be studying, is comprised of marine areas, islands, fjords, channels, forests and moorland. It covers an area of approximately 30,000 miles. All biosphere reserves include core zones (no significant infrastructure development), buffer zones (light development) and transition zones.

“We have no intentions of traveling to Chile to modify communities, but instead to provide our students with an opportunity to interact with the Chileans in the region and introduce them to Iowa through our students,” says Coogan. “These experiences create a broader perspective for everyone. Through the interactions both at the biological field station and community located in Puerto Williams, our students will benefit from an international experience while learning about the region.”

The Global Fellows program is designed to link the globalism focus of the University Seminar for first-year students with a significant academically-oriented international experience and service to the University community through presentations and mentorship. According to Dr. David Evans, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, the cost of the trip will be subsidized with funds from the strategic plan budget for strengthening interim and international opportunities.

To apply, students submitted essays and faculty letters of recommendation in early spring 2011. The finalists all said they applied for this once-in-a-lifetime experience in hopes of becoming better global citizens. 

“This is an excellent and low-cost way to travel internationally and work on a project that relates directly to my major,” says Hartmann, an environmental science major from Albert Lea, Minn. “I will probably focus on something regarding the protection of natural spaces. I’m very excited to go, and I’m keeping an open mind as I get ready for the trip. 

When they return from their international experience, the students will engage in a for-credit debriefing seminar and prepare a presentation for Scholars’ Day, which is held each April. Finally, they will become mentors for new first-year students in University Seminar and serve as advocates for international travel, globalism and sustainability.

“Part of the expectation is that these students become ambassadors for the global program,” says Dr. Peter Steinfeld, associate dean of the faculty. “They’ll know what it means to travel, and they’ll get other students interested in doing it. They will be helping mostly with the marketing of Global Fellows, but also with international travel in general.” 

Faculty members are eager to see what students bring back from this trip in the form of knowledge, perspective, and leadership. 

“It’s a chance to really highlight two main focuses at BV – the idea of globalization and the idea of academic achievement,” says Dixee Bartholomew-Feis, dean of social science, philosophy and religion. “We’re supporting the best and brightest students and challenging them to work toward all the things they might become.”