Thursday, December 08, 2011
Installing residential solar panels in the mountains of Costa Rica is not how most college professors create new courses in agriculture. But that’s just the way Parkland College Associate Professor Don Bergfield plans to go about it, starting this January.
Bergfield and other community college faculty members from across the country have been selected to participate in a federally funded study abroad immersion experience in Rancho Mastatal, Costa Rica, from January 3-13. Entitled “Study Abroad Capacity Building for Community and Technical Colleges,” the program is sponsored by Madison (Wisc.) Area Technical College’s Center for International Education and is made possible with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA).
Funded for three years and now in its second year, Madison’s program provides training and funding so that community and technical colleges can develop new short-term, faculty-led study abroad programs in targeted study fields. Bergfield, who applied for the program for Parkland, says he’s ready to build relationships with college faculty from New York, Arkansas, New Jersey, Oregon, Hawaii, and Wisconsin through this experience.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to take our short-term study abroad program to another level, focusing on sustainable topics for a longer term in Costa Rica,” Bergfield said. “I really appreciate the opportunities and support that Parkland offers in this endeavor.”
The eight-member faculty group will participate in the 10-day Renewable Energy for International Development training, conducted by Solar Energy International (SEI) in the village of Rancho Mastatal. Each faculty member has committed developing a new credit-bearing study abroad course after training (either solely or in partnership with other participants) in the target subject areas of engineering, renewable energy, sustainable development, or technical education. Courses in water resources, civil engineering, sustainable construction, sustainable agriculture, ecotourism, or sustainable business practices (e.g., entrepreneurship) are especially encouraged. Bergfield plans to create a Costa Rican study abroad course in sustainable agriculture at Parkland. Parkland currently offers Spanish-immersive and international agriculture study abroad opportunities in San José, Costa Rica and other rural parts of the country.
Each participating institution will receive a $1,000 stipend to assist with developing the course curriculum, and Bergfield and the other faculty will attend a series of workshops on new study abroad program/curriculum development at Madison during spring 2012.
“The end result will be a network of colleges offering new programs in the areas of renewable energy and sustainable development,” Ken Walz, co-director of the project at Madison Area Technical College, said in a prepared statement.