Building educational capacity for the Panamanian workforce

ccrawfo5's picture
Panama City

A year ago, the Payson Center started its Panama Field Work Experience,  under the guidance of faculty member Dr. Nanette Svenson. The MS program is very much in keeping with Payson’s history as an applied global development center. Students study here, both online and in face-to-face classrooms sessions, and are awarded hard-to-get internships with UN agencies at the regional UN Hub. It is quite a special experience.

This week, while representing Tulane University at a State of Louisiana Trade Mission to the Republic of Panama, I am reminded of why Panama is such an interesting place for students to learn about and think about development practice. On the one hand, Panama is a regional trade and financial center — as its gleaming skyline suggests. It is also home to world-class installations and activities, from the Smithsonian Institution Tropical Research Institute to the new Museum of Biodiversity, designed by starchitect Frank Gehry (married to a Panamanian.) And of course there is the Canal – now celebrating its 100th year and doing very well under Panamanian control. Still, even though the World Bank has designated it as a “middle income country”, the country presents all manner of development challenges.

In a US Embassy briefing this week, we were told time and again that educational capacity for the Panamanian workforce was the country’s number one priority, not to mention health care and other needs, especially in rural areas. At the University of Panama Medical School, we met with medical researchers, for example, who told us about the malaria problems that continue, mostly in the comarcas, or indigenous territories. So the contrasts that Panama offers are profound, and beg all manner of development questions. We are hoping that these facts, alongside with the very great prestige that Tulane has here in Panama, will make the country an interesting option for master’s students who want to do applied field work while earning their degree.

A few more photos of Fall 2014 Panama Field Work Experience

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