Community development–in its many forms–takes on problems facing real people; from creating sensible and resilient transportation systems, to helping provide access to housing, to alleviating pressures from development or natural disasters, to addressing issues around food and more. Students in CDAE 171 Community and International Economic Transformation travel each year to Peru to tackle obstacles facing local communities. The work is perennial through the course instructors' relationships with development and community groups; students take the opportunity each May to help progress the work done before them.
McKenna Murray majors in ENVS and minors in CID and Food Systems, "This course felt like the crux of all of my studies here at UVM. To be able to apply all of these dynamic concepts that I have been learning in a classroom for the past three years was a truly empowering experience."
Water scarcity, women's empowerment, and seed systems–or the tracking of farmers' use of hybridized or organic seeds and seed saving practices–were this year's focus for student groups led by Assistant Professor Dan Tobin and Lecturer Nathan Fry.
"When we were designing this course, Nathan and I had multiple objectives," said Tobin. "Obviously, we were vested in an excellent educational experience, and as much as possible we wanted students to engage in the messy and complicated process of identifying topic areas that were both meaningful to them and important to the Andean context. We also wanted students to participate in building institutional partnerships that are vital to responsible development work.”
The Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD) believes that Andean communities are more capable of eliminating poverty than any development expert. Through partnerships like this, students work in conjunction with the communities with whom they're collaborating to work toward a resilient solution that will last based on the knowledge and experiences inherent to the local community.
“It was great getting to know the students and working alongside them. They should feel really proud of the work they did; we are very impressed by the final reports! The information presented will be useful for future groups that come, from UVM and other schools, to continue delving deeper into these very important topics,” noted the AASD crew.
Tobin continued, "As we study and engage in development, we want to ensure that we’re doing so as responsibly and ethically as we can. We’re committed to the principles of participation, social justice, empowerment, and sustainability and so look for partners who operate from similar philosophical and methodological frameworks as we do. AASD fits the mold and we were particularly impressed by the long-term relationships marked by trust that AASD has developed in the region. It’s quite clear that AASD works with communities as equal partners, an approach that closely aligns with what Nathan and I were emphasizing to the students over the course of the semester."
"This course to Peru was one of the most incredible experiences of my life," adds Rachel Zell, CID '20. "It’s not often that you get to see the direct applications of everything you’ve been studying, but this trip really demonstrated what development can mean. The whole experience was just very inspirational and reaffirmed my future goals."