reaches out to Bolivia
Dr. Ken Sorensen sees value in the international experience, in bridging geographical divides through exposure to different cultures and ways of life.
Indeed, Sorensen, an entomology professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, believes so strongly in international experience that he has developed what amounts to his own international internship program. Since the mid-1990s, Sorensen, who is also a North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service specialist, has been arranging to bring Bolivian agricultural students and others working in Bolivian agriculture to North Carolina to experience and study the state’s agriculture.
Every two years, Sorensen arranges for a group of Bolivians to visit North Carolina. They spend a summer on the N.C. State campus, working in the programs of various College faculty members and taking a class. On weekends and holidays, Sorensen sees that the interns are exposed to the state’s culture.
Sorensen said he began thinking about an internship program in 1992, when he visited Bolivia as part of a Partners of the Americas program. Partners of the Americas is a private organization that sponsors activities designed to improve the quality of life in Latin American and Caribbean communities.
Sorensen spent two weeks in Cochabamba, Bolivia, as part of a Partners Farmer to Farmer program. He gave seminars and workshops, visited farms and spoke with agricultural students at the University of San Simon in Cochabamba. Partners of the Americas matches states with Latin American and Caribbean communities, and North Carolina is partnered with Cochabamba.
Sorensen said the Department of Entomology and the College have an informal agreement with the University of San Simon that allows College faculty members to serve on San Simon advisory committees and as agricultural consultants in Bolivia and to assist with a master’s degree program in crop protection at San Simon. The agreement also allows for faculty exchanges between the College and San Simon. As a result of the partnership, Sorensen said College faculty members are participating in an effort to find alternative crops for coca, which is used to make cocaine, in Bolivia.
“It crossed my mind that we could bring students up here, expose them to North Carolina and give them a hands-on experience,” said Sorensen, who serves on both the Department of Entomology International Committee and the College International Advisory Committee. Sorensen was recognized for his international activities with the Epsilon Sigma Phi International Award in 1994 and the North Carolina Partners of the Americas Award for University Linkage in 1997.
Working with a Partners Farmer to Farmer coordinator in Bolivia, Sorensen put his plan into motion. The first summer just one intern came to North Carolina. The next two groups numbered four interns each, while the most recent group, which spent the summer of 2001 on campus, included three people.
This year’s group included Martin Parraga, an employee of the Bolivian agricultural inspection service; Karen Revollo, an agronomy student; and Cinthia Cabero, an agricultural consultant.
With the help of the Bolivian Farmer to Farmer coordinator, Sorensen selects each group of interns. The interns must pay for their own transportation to and from North Carolina. Sorensen matches the interns with various College program leaders, usually in entomology or plant pathology. The program leaders agree to provide the interns with room and board — they live in University Towers — and pay for some living expenses. In return, the interns work as summer assistants for the program leaders for four days each week.
The interns spend each Friday in an Entomology Agricultural Practicum class. The class deals with the role entomology plays in various types of agriculture.
“We learn, and they learn,” Sorensen said. “It’s helping agriculture; it’s helping the world. It’s a meaningful partnership.”