With seven colleges and more than 60 research centers and institutes, the University of Delaware has projects under way around the globe. Here's a quick look at some of our latest international efforts.
Vicki Cassman is accustomed to teaching prospective museum professionals at the University of Delaware the skills they will need in caring for collections, but she recently provided her expertise to a class of students in a very different setting – Iraq.
Cassman, assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Art Conservation, taught an intensive two-week course last summer at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil.
The institute was established as one element of the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project, a $13.9 million U.S. government-funded program to expand and enhance local capacity in the field of archaeological conservation and preservation. In addition to the University, U.S. contributors to the institute include Winterthur and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.
The Iraq Cultural Heritage Project has three goals: the renovation of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad; the establishment of a cultural heritage preservation/conservation institute in Erbil; and capacity building for Iraqi cultural heritage specialists.
The institute is managed by International Relief and Development (IRD), a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization, under the auspices of the Iraq Cultural Heritage Program. IRD works closely with Iraq's State Board of Antiquities and Heritage on efforts to improve the country's capability to preserve its significant cultural heritage collections and archaeological sites. As part of IRD's commitment, a transition is under way for an Iraqi Board of Directors to assume complete responsibility for the management of the Erbil institute this year.
Instead of emphasizing education and outreach, as most American museums do, Iraqi museums have primarily served as safe storehouses for valuable collections, which may be viewed by the public only occasionally, Cassman said. The institute seeks to change that emphasis and also to help Iraqi museum professionals build more professional connections among themselves and with others internationally.
Providing safe, nutritious food for growing world populations can take its toll on natural resources, especially in developing countries.
UD's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is collaborating with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to explore ways to boost agricultural production with the environment in mind. The project, led by Shreeram Inamdar, associate professor of bioresources engineering, is funded by the International Science and Education program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Through summer internships in India, four UD students examined ICRISAT's sustainable watershed management practices and their impacts on environmental quality, crop productivity and socioeconomic conditions in target watersheds. The students also evaluated the policy and trade implications and looked at how watershed conditions and agricultural practices in India and other developing countries compare to conditions in the U.S.
Teaching modules created by the students and their professors are now infusing international content into eight UD courses. "Sustainable Watershed Management in Developing Countries," a new online course, also is in development.
"We traveled to a remote village not too far from headquarters to see the impact of the conservation practices on agricultural communities and got to meet the farmers," said UD student Rachael Vaicunas. "It was great to be able to connect all of our research and the topics that we included in our teaching modules to on-the-ground projects."
Oceans Day at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Cancún, Mexico, in December 2010, brought a new wave of attention to the vital need to protect the central role of the oceans as Earth's life support system.
"Crucial interlinkages between oceans and climate need to be addressed," said Biliana Cicin-Sain, co-chair and head of secretariat of the Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands, which co- organized the event. Cicin-Sain directs the Gerard J. Mangone Center for Marine Policy in UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.
Climate change is threatening the oceans' ability to provide life-sustaining services such as generating oxygen, absorbing carbon dioxide, and regulating climate and temperature, she explained.
If bold measures are not taken to protect the oceans, more than half the people living in 183 coastal countries, including 44 small island nations, will suffer disproportionate impacts from ocean warming, sea-level rise, extreme weather and ocean acidification (the changing of the ocean's pH).
Oceans Day featured prominent speakers, including representatives from the governments of the Seychelles, Papua New Guinea and the Maldives, and working groups to develop a comprehensive agenda on oceans and climate. Special sessions were devoted to adaptation needs and related financing for coastal and island communities at the frontline of climate change.
At the Sixth International Conference on Sustainable Water Environment hosted by UD last summer, sobering facts illustrated the need for safe, sustainable water resources:
» 1.1 billion people lack clean drinking water.
» 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation.
» 1.8 million people die each year from diarrheal diseases.
"Water is the most important natural resource," said C. P. Huang, Donald C. Phillips Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and chair of the conference's organizing committee. "It is a necessary substance for life and there is no substitute for it."
Climate change further complicates the picture by shifting the amounts of water available in various places around the world. As just one example, a joint initiative of the U.S. and China is studying the impact of climate change on water resources in western China, where rivers are fed by Himalayan glaciers that are receding rapidly. As the glaciers disappear, there will be a corresponding decrease in water supply to the Yangtze River and Three Gorges Dam, currently a major energy source for China.
Ideas presented at the conference, which drew participants from six continents, will be shared in "Technology for a Sustainable Water Environment," a special issue in the Journal of Separation and Purification Technology.
When Lindsay Palkovitz was 15, she visited a poor rural area in Mexico where the villagers made their living from other people's garbage, picking through trash for copper wire and other items they could sell, and burning the remainder to keep warm.
"It deeply affected me to see people living like that," she says.
That experience ignited in Palkovitz a social conscience, and she has since spent time carrying out community development projects in Bulgaria, Uganda and Kenya.
Now a graduate student in UD's Health Promotion Program, Palkovitz is conducting a study examining the effects of sociocultural factors on adolescents' sexual behavior in rural Kwale, Kenya. Her ultimate goal is to design a culturally appropriate comprehensive HIV/AIDS and sex education program for adolescents in that community.
Palkovitz, who earned her bachelor's degree in anthropology at UD in 2003, is advised by associate professor Beth Orsega-Smith in the College of Health Sciences. Her trip to Kenya during the 2011 winter session is funded by the global research travel grant program sponsored by the Office of Graduate and Professional Education, in collaboration with the Institute for Global Studies. Twenty-five graduate students shared $86,375 in competitive grants, supporting travel for global research, internships and performances in 18 countries/territories during the 2010–2011 academic year.
Steven M. Eidelman, H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Human Services Policy and Leadership in the College of Education and Human Development at UD, spoke at the United Nations during the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in September 2010.
The CRPD was adopted in December 2006 and was opened for signature in March 2007. There were 82 signatories, the highest number in history for a U.N. convention on its opening day. States or regional integration organizations may now ratify the convention and optional protocol at U.N. Headquarters in New York.
Eidelman discussed the need for countries to move away from institutionalizing people with disabilities and instead, create services that support community living and inclusion.
"It's possible for all people with disabilities to live in towns, villages and cities," said Eidelman. "We don't need institutional care as a model. With the right support, families can raise their children with disabilities."
While much of the progressive research about inclusion has been conducted in places like the United States, Canada and Australia, Eidelman says many places in the world still have a very segregated system for people with disabilities.
"Changing cultures is a lot more difficult than changing services," he said. "Much of the Middle East is very segregated and isolating. In Africa, there are very few services available in most countries. There is also still much shame associated with disabilities in countries like China and Japan."
Eidelman says just as the United States went through a cultural shift about inclusion, it can be a long-term process for other countries.
"Ultimately, when you get down to the base level with families, most of them want the same thing," said Eidelman. "They want the best for their children."