Home CAS News Nelson Institute grant supports Drake service projects in Belize

Nelson Institute grant supports Drake service projects in Belize

Drake students study sustainable agroforestry in Belize, January 2016.
Drake students study sustainable agroforestry in Belize, January 2016.

A new grant will help Drake University enhance current and future projects in Southern Belize.

The Global Pressing Issues Grant, funded by Drake’s Rolland and Mary Nelson Institute for Diplomacy and International Affairs, will help Drake students and faculty to collaborate across a number of diverse programs Drake offers in the Toledo District of Southern Belize. A team of faculty members will implement new practices to assess the benefits of these service projects and weigh the benefits against project costs, such as the local resources required to help facilitate the work.

“Service-learning projects can provide very high-quality educational opportunities for our students, and we have a great deal of expertise that we can bring to bear on maximizing the value of those opportunities,” said Professor David Skidmore, chair of the Nelson Institute and the Principal Center for Global Citizenship. “We have always approached new project partners with a commitment to equity and mutual benefit. This grant will allow our faculty to identify and implement new ways to ensure that we are maximizing benefits to our partners abroad.”

In only a few years, Drake’s presence in the Toledo District of Southern Belize has grown from the ground up to include programs in community health, economic development and sustainability, and data analytics. A new men’s health assessment conducted by students across those diverse disciplines will serve as a case study for Drake faculty and students to better collaborate, be aware of each other’s projects, assist each other as needed, and make every effort to ensure that Drake’s multiple activities in the Toledo District do not place undue burdens on the community or our partners.

Faculty members John Rovers, professor of pharmacy practice; Daniel Alexander, professor of mathematics; and Thomas Westbrook, professor of leadership studies; will serve as primary investigators for the project.

Through service-learning projects in Belize, students learn about their place in an increasingly globalized world, while affording them a chance to give back during study abroad experiences.

Since 2011, the Drake College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (CPHS) has placed 15 fourth-year PharmD students annually with Hillside Clinic in the town of Punta Gorda, Toledo District. Student pharmacists provide pharmacy services under supervision to patients in the clinic, as well as on mobile clinic trips to villages in the countryside.

A number of students in Drake’s LEAD (Leadership Education And Development) program work with Belizean development groups to collaborate on health and economic development projects. The Environmental Science and Policy program offers a bi-annual J-Term travel seminar in the Toledo District where students learn about sustainable development by partnering with local villages and non-profit organizations (NPOs) such as TIDE.

This J-Term, Drake offered its first two placements for data analytics students to work with Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize. Proposed future partnerships with both Hillside Clinic and the Ministry of Health will create data management projects designed to improve the public health system and lay the groundwork for sustained collaboration.

Global Pressing Issues Grants are valued at up to $30,000. Grants awarded by The Nelson Institute in prior years are supporting ongoing projects to improve the utilization of clean water in rural Uganda and to reframe immigrant and refugee narratives in Des Moines.

Established in 2012 with the generous support of Rolland and Mary Nelson, the Nelson Institute provides students with hands-on learning experiences that prepare them for international careers and public service. Other Institute activities include Model United Nations, European Union and Arab League teams, an annual Conference on Global Affairs, a visiting diplomat program and support for student conference travel.