Hugo Navarro Serrano knows the impact of studying abroad in the development of a person’s career. The Costa Rica native earned his master’s degree in civil engineering at New Mexico State University in 1993.
Now as the director of the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, he is working with NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences to create opportunities for both universities’ Extension education students.
The quest for a partnership began when College of ACES Dean Rolando A. Flores and members of the college leadership team visited Costa Rica in February after an invitation of the Costa Rican Minister of Education, Sonia M. Mora.
“We made an exploratory trip to a number of different universities,” said Jon Boren, assistant dean and director of NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service. “We visited with Extension colleagues about both of our Extension programs.”
Two goals arose from the trip – a reciprocal visit by an Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica leadership team to New Mexico and an interest in exploring possibilities of a student exchange program focusing on Extension education with hopes of a future dual degree program.
“Our visit created a great opportunity for them to bring some of their professors and students in Extension programs to New Mexico to see how we develop, deliver and evaluate Extension programs,” Boren said.
The first week of December, Serrano and a group of directors, faculty and students visited NMSU in Las Cruces and traveled north along the Rio Grande corridor to learn about New Mexico’s Cooperative Extension Service.
Diego Camacho, general coordinator of Extension at the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, has been working to make changes in the Costa Rican Extension program.
“Many things that we have been thinking about are things that NMSU already has done here for years,” Camacho said. “When we see NMSU’s programs, we know it is important to make changes to include these things.”
During the visit, the leadership teams for both colleges discussed the possibility of developing a dual master’s degree program in Extension education.
“Most of our Extension people are engineers, who are working in their discipline, but they don’t have a formal education in Extension,” said Carmen Madriz, director of graduate studies at the Institute of Technical Education.
After reviewing NMSU’s Extension education program, Madriz said her colleagues saw an opportunity to work with NMSU to have a dual degree.
The first step to that goal is an exchange program where Costa Rican students will attend NMSU’s Extension 101 class and NMSU students will participate in internships.
“From this visit we have signed an agreement that we are going to start with Extension 101 as the first official activity,” Serrano said.
“Our Cooperative Extension Service programs are well known in New Mexico and in other states in the country,” said Dean Rolando A. Flores. “This year we have made great strides in sharing our successes with colleagues in Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico and India. International collaboration is a two-way street, they learn and we learn too. We are very hopeful of the opportunities that can result from collaborating with them.”