New graduate Larissa Duma completed four co-op work terms abroad, including a stint in Botswana, Africa.

Learning outside classroom yields ‘agent of change’

October 21, 2010

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Like most students, Larissa Duma came to SFU to learn. But unlike most, she acquired much of her university education outside the classroom.

Over the past six years, Duma has completed four co-op work terms both at home and abroad, attended an SFU field school in Southeast Asia and taken two semester-long experiential programs.

Duma, who received a bachelor’s degree in environmental science this month, spent her first co-op in Campbell River in 2006 evaluating the effects of logging techniques on regeneration for B.C. Forests and Range.

The following summer in Kananaskis, Alta., she taught teenaged boys in the Junior Forest Rangers program about everything from chainsaw use to trail maintenance. She says that experience confirmed her passion for working with people, particularly teaching kids.

In fall 2008 in Inuvik, NWT, she measured water quality in the MacKenzie Delta and started her own experiments in phytoplankton edibility.

Summer 2009 found her at the SFU field school in Indonesia exploring the environment in relation to international education. She and her classmates developed new perspectives and methods for integrating environmental education into the classroom.

And this past spring she spent a co-op work term in Botswana, Africa with the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, teaching children about the need to conserve predators and their habitats.

Her experiential programs, which infuse direct experience with learning, included the Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue in Vancouver and the Bamfield Fall Semester program at the Bamfield Marine Science Centre on Vancouver Island.

Overall, says Duma, her learning in the field “helped to confirm that I definitely don’t want to pursue a career in pure science.”

Instead, she’d like to pursue a career that links her scientific background with her passion for environmental education and international development, perhaps with organizations such as the UN or the Canadian International Development Agency.

“Exploring and experiencing my education outside of traditional classrooms and borders has not only fostered a deeper appreciation for the strengths of humanity,” says Duma, “it has also given me the skills to act as an agent of change.”


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Peter Dow

I had the opportunity to work with Larissa when she came to Maun, Botswana to work within the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust. Larissa brought with her tremendous energy and innovation, a trait that seems to go hand in hand with many youth who have ties with Students without borders. Her enthusiasm quickly spread to the students that Larissa interacted with and amazingly to many of the teachers of Matshwane Primary school. In short, she was a perfect ambassador for Canada, SFU and women in general. Sala Ka Pula Larrisa!

Kagiso!!!! Peter and Co!

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