The School for Field Studies: One of a Kind
SFS has reached 39 years of existence providing academic opportunities for thousands of students and changing people´s lives in four continents. This is easy to say and looks good on paper, but in practice delivering our programs requires a lot of hard work and a special dedication. SFS has one of the largest bodies of environmental science faculty in study abroad. As faculty members, we are not only mentors to students but also researchers who carry on the strong responsibility of doing research that is meaningful to our clients and local communities. Being part of local communities, SFS Centers have the long-term commitment and expertise to contribute to the solution of environmental issues and share this capacity with diverse stakeholders.
Part of the Fall 2019 Costa Rica group at Boquete Honey in Boquete, Panama.
Thus, this is not a trivial landmark. It is an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the vision and mission of SFS. I have been with SFS for over 18 years, first filling in for a temporary faculty leave over two summer sessions, then as the resident ecologist, and later as the Center Director in Costa Rica. I started at SFS as a recently fledged Ph.D. looking to expand his opportunities in his home country. Then, something that I saw just as a temporary job became a very important part of my life. I moved to Atenas, where the Center is located, and raised my family there (I have a wife and two children, who are now starting the University). I believe in the mission and vision of SFS, which creates life-changing, learning opportunities for undergraduate students. This vision also includes the faculty and staff because it would be impossible to work for SFS if we did not share its values. I know this might not work for everyone, since we come from many different paths of life, but my hope is that, after working here, no matter the difficulties, we leave with a strong sense of the importance of education as one of the few alternatives we have to improve as human beings first, and then develop the capacity to solve environmental issues.
The Fall 2019 student group and staff in Boquete, Panama.
And what better way to celebrate the SFS model than being in the field with the students. We had the opportunity to celebrate SFS’ birthday during our international trip to Panama. We were in Boquete, Chiriquí , doing a GIS mapping exercise in the coffee plantations and forest fragments of Finca Lérida. After lunch we sang Happy Birthday to SFS.
I hope that SFS would reach many more years of existence by stimulating the professional careers and lives of many students, faculty and staff. We must strive to understand that the solution to complex environmental issues must be based on solid science, but also on the understanding that, in the final analysis, the way we relate to the natural world depends on our ethical values and our perspective on life. We must see the future with optimism and with the hope of improving our relationship with nature through the education of the new generations. Happy Birthday SFS!
Hiking the Pipeline trail in Boquete, Panama.
Harvesting strawberries in Finca La Granjerita, Boquete, Panama.