October 8, 2019
Geography majors Annie Burns and Forrest Wilkinson were awarded small grants ($1000) from the UTSA Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) to undertake research on Mexican poverty alleviation and sustainable agriculture during the spring semester of 2019. They worked under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Jones, simultaneously enrolling in Research Practicums to receive academic credit for their efforts. Upon completion of their projects in May 2019, both Annie and Forrest were recommended and inducted into COLFA’s Academy of Undergraduate Research Associates. This honor is “…a formal acknowledgement of extraordinary student research or creative activity beyond typical classroom requirements.”
Annie’s project was an investigation of whether religious missions in Mexico are contributing to the UN Millennium Development Goals. She carried out telephone interviews with the Program Director and Missionary Ambassador of the Caring Hearts Ministry in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico (across the border from Yuma). She found that this Ministry was devoted to helping destitute populations in this border city---educating orphans, feeding the poor, helping the immobile poor meet their financial obligations, and offering medical outreach to surrounding communities. As revealed in her final paper, Caring Hearts was seen as actively addressing five of the eight Millennium Development Goals.
Forrest’s study involved whether indigenous ecological agriculture in southern Mexico was being preserved and whether it was sustainable and economical for the farmers of the region. His project involved ten days in Yucatan, where he visited traditional and ecologically- sustainable farms and talked with farmers and professors with the University of Quintana Roo. He found that forest plants with food potential were being extracted from the rainforest and planted in the milpas; that communal groups were preserving milpa techniques; and that women’s groups were successfully organizing for community development. His final paper concluded that economic benefits were exceeded by ecological benefits of practices that provided alternative opportunities and security for farmers in the region. In addition to the OUR Scholarship, Forrest applied for and acquired a grant ($2000) from the UTSA Office of Sustainability to cover his travel expenses in Quintana Roo.
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