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UB: National Development Through Innovation and Leadership
Innovation is a key driver of a country’s national development. Since its inception, the University of Belize (UB) has contributed significantly to Belize’s national development, transforming nearly every field from the arts and healthcare to education and government. Central to UB’s success as Belize’s national university is its students’, graduates’ and faculties’ ability to make meaningful impact through innovation. Innovations that are relevant – serving the needs of the country, and that are continuously advancing the country over time.
One such notable change was accomplished on November 14th, 2018 by the University’s Information Technology students, who participated in the Belizean Apps for Development Competition 2018, which was organized by Directorate General for Foreign Trade and Belize Coalition of Service Providers and the Belize Association of I.C.T. The UB team, which comprised of Tara Thomas, Kendesha Armstrong and UB graduate Niam Villanueva, placed first in the “Application to Facilitate the Birth Certificate Application Process” category. In essence, the students created a web-based/ mobile application that provides updates on the application process and its related costs; documentation scanning and submission; and appointments/ pick up dates for birth certificates for Belizeans nationwide. The application also included a feature to apply for marriage and death certificates.
Similarly, and equally impressive, were the University’s Engineering students, who were once again medal winners at the “XX Concurso De Diseño Y Construccion De Modelos Estructurales, VII Fase Internacional”, hosted by the Instituto Tecnologico De Chetumal (ITCH) in Quintana Roo Mexico from 14-16th November 2018. After two days of competition in Chetumal, the UB team, comprising of Justin Tesecum, Cleveland Stain III, Estephanie Perez, Javier Chan and Asah Bernard, won the silver medal. The objective of the contest is to promote the use of theories of the mechanical behavior of materials for the solution of structural problems. This year the model to design and build was based on the structure of the shaft of a crane arm, manufactured with aluminum cans, plastic straws, spaghetti and PET containers. Overall, UB placed 2nd, 6th and 8th out of 37 teams.
Undeniably, these examples continue to build UB’s reputation as Belize’s national university and the driving force behind Belize’s dynamic, innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem. They are both revolutionary and evolutionary, showing our students’, and inevitably our graduates’, autonomy, self-efficacy, critical thinking and creativity. More importantly, however, it demonstrates UB’s ability to consistently produce graduates, who are able to contribute significantly to Belize’s national development. Driving innovation, particularly for national development, comes down to leadership; and with renewed emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship in our curriculum, it shows that the University of Belize can have considerable and transformative effect on Belize’s productivity, efficiency and ability to improve quality of outputs and services.
Environmental Leadership through Participatory Management for Natural Resources Workshop
The University of Belize Environmental Research Institute (UB ERI) and the Syracuse University (SU) Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs offered training sessions aimed at increasing skills in environmental leadership through participatory management. There is increased recognition that effective governance of protected areas requires participation by stakeholders in decision-making, including those at the local level. This workshop was essential in enhancing participant’s skills in community engagement and collaboration.
The four-day effort was facilitated by Professor Catherine Gerard (SU), the Director of the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC) at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and was accompanied by Ms. Giselle Borland, the UB ERI’s Training Officer, who has a Master’s in Management from the University of the West Indies and who has been delivering conflict training and engaging in community outreach over the last two years.
Participants benefitted from a one-day session tailored to the needs of their organization by working in teams to gain skills in analysing conflict, developing timelines of the conflict and brainstorming solutions. The final day brought all organizations together to explore participatory methods and discuss ways of increasing public participation from the various communities the organizations interact with. Specifically, the training dealt with:
· Interest-based Negotiation: How to separate positions from interests and how to use positions to create multiple solutions.
· Conflict Analysis: Looking at different angles to uncover the roots and interpretations of a conflict.
· Participatory Design and facilitation: Options for different levels of citizen involvement; facilitation techniques for generating ideas and reaching agreement.
A total of twenty-five participants from the Belize Forest and Fisheries Departments and the Belize Audubon Society attended the workshop.