Following her visit with Costa Rica’s president, Luis Guillermo Solís, in Atlanta this week on May 19, Kavita Pandit, the University of Georgia’s provost of international education, told Global Atlanta how pleased she was to learn of his awareness of the activities of the UGA campus at the foot of the Monteverde Cloud Forest in the Central American country.
The university acquired its Costa Rican campus in 2001 in a rural and somewhat remote area that is some three hours overland from the capital of San Jose with the purpose of exploring how human and environmental systems can operate in harmony and developing a place where people seek to understand and appreciate other cultures.
In 2010, Newsweek magazine published a special issue in which were listed “100 Places to See Before They Disappear.” The list was wide-ranging including Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Big Sur in California. Less well-known was No. 14, the Monteverde Cloud Forest in northwestern Costa Rica.
Ever since the University of Georgia Foundation acquired the 155-acre farm and ecotourism facility that became the UGA Costa Rica campus, the university has made certain that Newsweek’s prediction doesn’t come true by carefully cultivating a strategic plan ensuring that the area remains ecologically vibrant.
This goal is to be attained by the advance of “our understanding — through instruction, research and outreach — of the interconnected nature of human and environmental systems, particularly the concepts of socio-cultural, ecological and economic sustainability,” according to the plan’s mission statement.
Dr. Pandit wrote in a published report after returning from her first visit to the university’s campus in 2010 how impressed she was “by the many firsthand ways in which students engage the concept of sustainability.”
While 250 UGA students and 70 faculty participate in UGA campus activities, programs of other universities also use the campus with faculty and students coming from around the world.
“I was pleasantly surprised with how familiar he was with our previous work and accomplishments,” Dr. Pandit said of her recent meeting with Dr. Solis at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead that included Costa Rica’s ministers of foreign trade and foreign affairs and a delegation of foreign investment and private sector representatives.
She was accompanied by UGA officials J. Griffin Doyle, vice president for government relations; Quint Newcomer, director of the UGA Costa Rica residential center and Paula Mellom, associate director of the Center for Latino Achievement and Success in Education.
Dr. Pandit said she looks forward to working with Costa Rica’s education ministry in “scaling up” its presence in helping K-12 teachers across the country develop their math and science teaching techniques and curriculum development.
The UGA faculty for the past half dozen years has been involved in working with local school systems, but that relationship, she added, could become more widespread as it works on a more centralized approach with the education ministry.
She also said that the meeting offered the possibility of the development of ties between Costa Rica’s finance and banking sector and UGA’s Terry College of Business’ risk management and insurance expertise.
The visit was part of Dr. Solís’s 13-day trip to the U.S., which also included visits to Charlotte, N.C., Chicago and Austin, Texas. On the morning of May 19, he also delivered an address at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
For more information on the UGA Costa Rica residential center, see dar.uga.edu/costa_rica/