What is EARTH?
EARTH University (Universidad EARTH, (Escuela de Agricultura de la Región Tropical Húmeda) is a private, non-profit university that offers two programs of study: an undergraduate licenciatura degree in agricultural sciences and natural resources management and a master’s degree in agribusiness innovation. The university invests in students – predominantly from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa – working to become leaders of positive socio-economic and environmental change for their home countries and the world at large through a techno-scientific education emphasizing ethical entrepreneurship. EARTH (Escuela de Agricultura de la Región Tropical Húmeda) University, located in Guacimo, Limón, Costa Rica, is a private, non-profit university dedicated to education in the agricultural sciences and natural resources. Through this program the university aims to contribute to sustainable development in the humid tropics by seeking a balance between agricultural production and environmental protection. Sustainable development satisfies the needs of the present without sacrificing the ability of future generations to satisfy their necessities. The early 1980’s were a time of economic turmoil in Central America. The United States and others respondedwith a great deal of emergency funds to the region. Leaders from Latin America and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) saw in this difficult time an opportunity to direct some of this international support towards long-standing problems troubling the region by creating a unique educational institution that would develop agricultural “agents of change” – leaders who would bring consensus, cooperation and innovative strategies to the regional issues of poverty and land use.
The cornerstone of the first campus building was laid on April 2, 1988, initiating the construction of today’s 3300-hectare university campus, a small community of 53,000 square meters that includes classrooms, laboratories, academic and administrative offices, recreational areas, and services and residences for students, faculty and staff. On March 26, 1990, government officials, private business owners, farmers, residents of nearby communities, university directors and the 60 young men and women who would make up the “pioneer” class at EARTH gathered to inaugurate both the campus and the University’s first academic year.
Academic Model: EARTH University’s curriculum is based on four formative areas designed to prepare students with the competencies required to respond to the needs of today’s world, including:
- Technical and scientific knowledge: Ensuring EARTH alumni have the professional competencies to sustainably manage agricultural operations and precious natural resources.
- Personal development, attitudes and values: Fostering self-awareness, empathy, respect, tolerance, teamwork, effective communication and life-long love of learning along with the promotion of intercultural peace and civil dialog.
- Ethical entrepreneurship: Sparking in students an entrepreneurial spirit to proactively generate opportunities for others and resolve solutions to persistent challenges. Students form and operate a business venture during their first three years studying at EARTH, thereby gaining a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to succeed in business while benefiting society.
- Social and environmental awareness and commitment: Developing students’ personal sense of social and environmental responsibility and strengthening their capacity to generate positive change.
The teaching and learning process at EARTH University is dynamic and participatory, and EARTH professors serve as facilitators of learning. Their educational approach is based on two principals:
- Student-centered learning: Students, alone or in groups, explore real challenges and become active participants in generating knowledge, as opposed to passive receptors of information.
- Experiential learning: Students learn through deliberate experiences designed to encourage learning and are given opportunities to build knowledge and develop abilities that they can put into practice while they are learning.
Students: EARTH students are recruited based on their academic and leadership potential, vocation, values and social and environmental commitment, regardless of their ability to pay.
- EARTH has approximately 431 students from some 41 countries.
- 46% are women.
- Approximately 83% are from rural communities.
- 60% of students receive full scholarships with the remaining receiving significant financial aid and /or educational subsidy, empowering promising young leaders from economically underprivileged communities.
- Out of an average of 1000 applicants, approximately 100 students are selected for admission each year.
EARTH University graduates are committed to making decisions that are positive in a human sense. Improvement in quality of life is the final goal of every action. Graduates have learned that their professional decisions must make both economic as well as environmental sense. They understand that farmers cannot be asked to make changes that benefit their land unless the changes also benefit their farm’s profitability. After completing their studies, EARTH graduates return to their home countries and rural areas in an effort to share their knowledge of innovative, sustainable agricultural techniques, ethical business practices and strong sense of values with others in their communities. Emboldened with the powerful experiences from EARTH, graduates return to their countries confident in their abilities to enact positive change and dedicated to working across political, institutional, and socioeconomic lines to do so.
The significance of the University’s mission has already begun to extend beyond the humid tropics. It is now recognized that such powerful agents of change are needed to respond to concerns not only in Latin America, but also throughout the world. Creation of similar universities in Africa and Asia are being considered based upon EARTH’s unique educational model and approach to sustainability. As an interim measure, EARTH has begun educating students from these regions.
GYLI and EARTH have partnered to place students into homestays in the La Argentina community since 2005. We have come to know these families and developed strong bonds with them and their farms. 2015 will mark the 10th anniversary of this homestay partnership.