Tulane and the Louisiana Trade Mission to Panama

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Panama City

This week I have the privilege of representing Tulane University at a State of Louisiana trade mission to the Central American nation of Panama. Panama and New Orleans have long and strong ties, not least because of the importance of the ports and in New Orleans and Panama City — and the associated commercial trade through the Panama Canal. One of the key areas of focus of this trade mission is higher education, and most Louisiana universities are represented. I am pleased to report that Payson is helping to lead the way in the efforts to increase Panamanian educational capacity with our Panama Field Work Experience program, led by our Panama office director, Dr. Nanette Svenson. The program allows students here in Panama the chance to earn one-half of their credits towards the MS in International Development in country including an internship for credit with a United Nations agency and one half in New Orleans (an option open to non-Panamanians as well.)

In addition, in summer 2015, Dr. Julie Hernandez will again offer her course in GIS and development, which starts in rural Boquete and ends up in Panama City, with an option for an internship as well as class credit. This year the summer course will be open to undergraduates as well as graduate students. There is great need here for these programs and the kind of exchange they promote. On the one hand, at first glance, Panama City can appear like the magical city of Oz — there are gleaming office towers such as one would see in Singapore or Dubai. On the other hand, however, and not far from those towers, one can find grinding, desperate poverty – like much of Latin America, Panama remains a country with great wealth, but also one of gross inequality. It is a welcoming and fascinating — and challenging — place to work.

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