From Miami to Colombia

University of Miami students at the Loma de la Cruz in Cali, Colombia. Photo courtesy Daniel Suman.

By Robert C. Jones Jr.

University of Miami students at the Loma de la Cruz in Cali, Colombia. Photo courtesy Daniel Suman.

From Miami to Colombia

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
Students share ‘Wow, look at that!’ moments in Colombia and learn about the country’s history and future challenges.

COLOMBIA – In Cali, they met with municipal officials to discuss the environmental implications of the historic peace deal between the Colombian government and that country’s largest rebel group.

At Uramba Bahía Málaga National Natural Park in the municipality of Buenaventura, they studied park management and conflict resolution.

And on the northern coast, they visited the port city of Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

For the 15 University of Miami students who traveled to Colombia over spring break as part of the class Fieldwork in Coastal Management/Tourism, Conservation and Development, the South American nation offered unparalleled opportunities to learn about port management and structure, marine protected areas, and the peace accords.

Taught by Daniel Suman, a professor of marine ecosystems and society at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the class focused on the Valle del Cauca Department in Southwestern Colombia and was organized in collaboration with the law program at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Cali.

“Colombia is such a culturally rich country, and I’m grateful to be experiencing it with Dr. Suman and the class,” said Kathryn Beaulieu, a graduate student at the Rosenstiel School. “We’ve had a unique experience meeting with government officials in Cali and Buenaventura, giving us a perspective on the history and challenges of Colombia that would have never happened on a tourist trip. We spent an awe-inspiring afternoon exploring the marine-protected area Bahía Málaga, sharing laughs and ‘Wow, look at that!’ moments. Many memories to last forever.”

The 15 students are enrolled in various programs at UM, including coastal law and policy, environmental science, and Latin American studies.

“During our time in Colombia, I have gained more knowledge than I could have imagined about the country’s history, culture, and challenges,” said Madeline Miller, a master of professional science student at the Rosenstiel School, who is studying coastal zone management. “I enjoy sharing my perspective of such a beautiful place with my fellow classmates and am thrilled to be experiencing coastal activities and management practices firsthand.”

A trip “everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime” is how marine science and physics major Raymond Leibensperger described his academic stay in Colombia.

“Seeing how the country operates and tackles environmental issues helps add perspective to all of the problems we study at UM,” he explained. “And seeing the poverty and wealth gap in Colombia has really opened my eyes to the reality of most of the world.”

Upon their return to UM, the students will prepare manuscripts and presentations based on field data collected during the trip.

Suman said he selected Colombia for the 2019 course because it is one of the most diverse Latin American countries in terms of biodiversity, politics, and culture.

“I wanted our students to understand this important nation that is attempting to implement peace accords after 50 years of internal violence,” he explained. “In addition, we are examining port management and policies in Colombia’s two major ports that are rapidly growing as international trade and commerce boom, and the third focus area of our study is management of protected areas. Since January, we have read about and discussed these topics so that our students already had a good background before traveling to Colombia. In March and April they will write short research papers on these topics.”