From July 8th to 13th professors María Alejandra Vélez (Universidad de los Andes School of Management) and Xavier Basurto (Duke University) delivered the course Governance and Conservation in Marine Protected Areas to a group of 24 participants, 13 of them students from Universidad de los Andes, 10 local community leaders and one civil servant from the Colombian Agency of National Parks. This was the first time that a course of the Universidad de los Andes School of Management International Summer School was delivered outside the main Bogota campus and that involved an innovative method of delivery mixing students and local participants around a common topic of vital importance to the Pacific coast of Colombia: governance, conservation and sustainable development of coastal areas.
This course was delivered in Buenaventura and Bahía Málaga. Buenaventura is the main port of the Colombian Pacific façade, the point of regional development, and the closest seaport to Bogota, the country’s capital; while Bahía Málaga is a bay amidst the Uramba National Natural Park where participants spent three days having lectures, group work sessions and nature outings.
After delivering the course, professor Basurto gave us the chance to meet him and he shared his impressions of his visit to Colombia:
When and why did you decide to pursue an academic career?
Right after my undergraduate degree I knew I wanted to become a professor, but was too afraid to tell anyone, so I didn’t until I was doing the PhD.
What are the most satisfying aspects of being a scholar?
Seeing how the lives of students are transformed by the experiences they have.
What other research areas would you like to develop in the future?
There is so much! But right now I am very curious to understand what can lead groups of people to reduce their use of natural resources, particularly how fishers organize among themselves, without any external intervention to decide to fish less, instead of more. Something easier said than done!
How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
I strive to train students to be critical free thinkers capable of asking hard questions in a positive, constructive way. I also strongly believe in the power of experiential education. The field is an irreplaceable classroom and so I work with students to help them become more observant and aware of their surroundings in the field. Observation is a powerful methodological device for any scholar inside and outside the academic setting.
What do you learn from the interaction with your students?
A lot! Scholars that do not learn from their students become really isolated and outdated!
During your visit, what surprised you the most about Colombia?
The quality of the students at Los Andes, the beauty of the Pacific coastal region, both its natural beauty and the richness and beauty of the Afro-Colombian people’s culture there.
What would you consider as a salient feature of the Universidad de los Andes’ students?
Students were prepared, good listeners and very enthusiastic and open to learn what we had to teach. It was a joy working and interacting with your students!