UTEP Team Receives U.S. Agency for International Development Grant to Study Conservation in Indonesia

Last Updated on May 13, 2014 at 8:58 am

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) was awarded a three-year grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to coordinate a program in Indonesia titled, “Enhancing Behavior Change through Conservation Programs.”

“The idea is to work with the university in Indonesia in terms of higher education and community development in relation to conservation issues,” said Stacey Sowards, Ph.D., UTEP associate professor of communication. “We’re working to build the Indonesians’ capacity for teaching and doing their own independent research.”

The program is a collaboration between faculty and students from UTEP and Universitas Mulawarman on the island of Borneo in Indonesia. The program will also include a partnership with the conservation organization Rare.

“USAID is pleased to award a grant to UTEP to build a mutually-beneficial academic and research partnership between UTEP and Universitas Mulawarman in the areas of conservation education, computer technology, field research and practical approaches for increasing conservation education and behavior change through public campaigns,” said USAID/Indonesia Mission Director Glenn Anders. “Through this partnership, we can strengthen our environment and conserve natural resources for generations to come.”

As part of the $997,313 USAID grant, Sowards and a research team of UTEP faculty and students – including co-project directors Richard Pineda, Ph. D., and Sarah Ryan, Ph.D., both of the Department of Communication – will travel to Indonesia this summer. The interdisciplinary faculty team will include UTEP professors from the colleges of science, engineering, liberal arts and education. The grant will also fund between 10 and 15 UTEP students for a study abroad program.

“It’s a very unique opportunity for UTEP to pursue a partnership in a different part of the world,” said William Robertson, Ph.D., UTEP associate provost and member of the interdisciplinary team that will travel to Indonesia. “It expands our global reach.”

UTEP has an existing relationship with Rare offering a master’s degree in communication.

“Ultimately the goal from UTEP’s perspective is to expose students and faculty to new research opportunities in international settings,” Sowards said.

USAID is an independent agency of the U.S. government that provides development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States. Since the 1950s, USAID has worked with the Indonesian government and civil society to stimulate the country’s development and meet the needs of its people. USAID programs in Indonesia expand access to a quality education, strengthen democracy, improve health, enhance understanding, sustain the environment and promote prosperity.

Home to the world’s third largest rainforest, Indonesia provides unique opportunities for conservation efforts. UTEP will bring internationally recognized research and teaching methods, particularly in environmental communication and conservation biology, to the partnership. UNMUL and Rare bring a localized and community-based focus in Indonesia.

Faculty and staff who will participate in the UTEP research team include Sunay Palsole, director of instructional support; Niamh Minion, study abroad coordinator; Harry Meeuwsen, Ph.D., director of the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning; William Hargrove, Ph.D., director of the Center for Environmental Research Management; Barry Benedict, Ph.D., professor in the College of Engineering; Vanessa Lougheed, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences; and Craig Tweedie, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences.

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