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CFWR offers first course abroad in Nicaragua

By Lynn Davis

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 33 - June 18, 1998

Making history this summer, the College of Forestry and Wildlife Resources offered its first course outside America: Issues in World Forestry and Forest Products. The tropical study program began in Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua, June 1 and will continue through June 20. Undergraduates and graduate students receive three credit hours.
The purpose was to provide students from various countries with a knowledge of global forest resources, products, and issues related to their use and management. Students were exposed to a broad array of inter-dependent and international influences on the management of the world's forests, and the extraction and use of forest products.
The course focused on the role forest enterprises play in world society, and on the environment and economy. Current issues important now in our daily lives, such as green certification, deforestation, and international trade of forest products, were discussed.
Conducted during Virginia Tech's first summer session at the Laguna de Apoyo Field Station in the Laguna de Apoyo Protected Area, a one-hour drive south from Managua, the course also highlighted some of the ecological research, conservation activities, and environmental education programs going on there and featured field trips in Southwest Nicaragua. These trips allowed for participants to meet professionals in the field and discuss important issues related to sustainable management and use of the world's forests and forest products.
Guest speakers also included experts from Nicaragua's Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, and several donor and non-government development organizations. Briefings by specialists of regional and global agencies such as the World Bank, FAO, and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) enabled students to learn first-hand about international career opportunities.
The facilities of the University of Central America in Managua, University of Mobile's Latin America Campus in San Marcos, and other institutions were also used.
Coordinating and teaching the course was A.L. "Tom" Hammett, who teaches Virginia Tech's courses in world forestry, forest-based enterprise management, and introductory natural resources. Hammett also serves as coordinator of the college's international programs.
His 25 years of diverse international experience includes establishing a training program for appropriate forest-based enterprises in the Dominican Republic. In 1996 and 1997, he led two groups of faculty members to Nicaragua to establish collaborative research and educational programs.
Two resource persons with extensive experience in Nicaragua and the region helped with the summer course: Jeffrey McCrary, on the faculty of the University of Central America, and Jerry Bauer, a natural resources specialist with USAID in Nicaragua. USAID provided a grant to Hammett to fund five participants from Nicaragua.
Hammett facilitated memorandums of understanding for Virginia Tech with two Nicaraguan universities, the University of Central America in Managua and the University of Mobile. He has also been conducting research in Nicaragua with his graduate student Sarah Greene, who is studying non-timber forest products in Nicaragua under a Fullbright Fellowship.
Hammett is also developing a research plan for future activities with his collaborator, McCrary, a former post-doc at Virginia Tech.