Colombia Purdue Initiative — CPI

Study Abroad Programs in Colombia growing at Purdue

Study Abroad programs are one of the key collaboration strategies between Purdue and Colombia. In recent years, Purdue faculty have increased efforts for Purdue students to have enriching academic experiences and internship opportunities in Colombia. While there is a growing portfolio of wonderful experiences to share, we offer a glimpse of the variety through the three stories below.

Colombia: Food Security & Sustainable Development

For the third year, a bilingual program focused on Food Security and Sustainable Development led by Dr. Adriela Fernandez, Purdue Department of Agricultural Economics, in collaboration with two Colombian universities, Universidad Tecnologia de Pereira (UTP) and Universidad de Caldas. This year, UTP is hosting an interdisciplinary team of students: eleven from Purdue, four from UTP, and three from Caldas. The students from UTP and Caldas are sharing with their Purdue peers their views on key issues such as food security, climate change, interdisciplinarity, and regional development.

Structured to foster bilingual and multidisciplinary approaches to these complex topics, courses are jointly taught by Dr. Fernandez and John Mario Rodríguez, UTP professor in the College of Industrial Engineering. Identical courses on fFood Security and Sustainable Development are offered in English and Spanish for 3 weeks during the summer. Students participate in the language of their choice,  gain knowledge on the strategic issues of food security, and explore sustainable approaches to development. To ensure a diverse methodology, students work in teams that combine both nationalities. The program culminates at Purdue with a multimedia presentation performed by each team.

The program started in 2013, when Dr. Fernandez received support from Dr. Ken Foster, Head of Agricultural Economics. Dr. Foster saw the need for Agricultural Economics students to develop competencies necessary to work in international agribusiness. Dr. Fernandez and María Cristina Valderrama, Director of the Office of Internationalization at UTP designed the program, and together, they found an ally at Universidad de Caldas. According to Valderrama, 29 Purdue students have participated in the program, and they expect to receive many more. Future plans for this program include an increase in the number of students, from Colombia and Purdue, as well as new opportunities for research and personalized internships.

Purdue students at UTP in 2013 as part of the student exchange program between UTP/Universidad de Caldas and Purdue


UTP students at Purdue in 2016 as part of the student exchange program between UTP/Universidad de Caldas and Purdue



Cartagena: Liberal Arts, Nursing, and Industrial Engineering

Universidad de Cartagena at Purdue

In April, a group of 20 students and 10 faculty and staff members from Universidad de Cartagena visited Purdue. A continuation of a summer 2015 study abroad and internship program, that took twelve Purdue students who shared classrooms with their Colombian peers in Cartagena for 6 weeks, the April experience turned out to be the reunion of good friends from both countries.

For a full week the visitors toured Purdue, West Lafayette, and even Chicago. The Cartagena students presented their undergraduate research projects at a poster session, where Purdue faculty praised their valuable work. They also attended lectures by Purdue faculty and met with key researchers in their areas of interest. Many of the Cartagena professors gave lectures and talks, and met with their Purdue peers in order to seek new collaboration opportunities. As a result of all of this, there are at least three students from Cartagena who are applying to Purdue to pursue graduate studies.

Joel Ebarb, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and International Programs in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) and Elizabeth Diaz, International Programs & Study Abroad Coordinator at the CLA, headed the coordination for the visit, along with Margaret Stanny, International Programs and Study Abroad Administrator. All of them expressed their satisfaction with students’ performance, and faculty willingness to find new ways of working with Universidad de Cartagena.


Group of students and professors from Universidad de Cartagena who came to visit Purdue in April 2016


Purdue Nursing and Industrial Engineering in Cartagena and Medellin

During an exploratory visit to Colombia in August of 2015, Dr. Vicki Simpson, Purdue School of Nursing, established important contacts with Colombian universities, including Universidad de Cartagena. One result was the Cultural Explorations of Health and Human Sciences Study Abroad Program in Cartagena, which took place during this year’s spring break in March. A group of 25 Purdue students from disciplines as diverse as Nursing, Nutrition, Public Health, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, and Hospitality and Tourism Management visited the old city of Cartagena. They participated in lectures by local government and community leaders, as well as by faculty from both Universidad de Cartagena and Purdue. The group also had the opportunity to spend a day with students from Universidad de Cartagena in health care locations most pertinent to their discipline.

The purpose of the trip was for students to get a broad sense of the health and human situation of the people of Cartagena. The importance of experiencing the cultural environment was a key factor in understanding some of the health challenges that the city faces. An important visit to La Boquilla, one of Cartagena’s poorest neighboring villages, allowed students to gain invaluable insight into some of the most common issues that other Caribbean populations often face. Also, research collaboration efforts between faculty from Universidad de Cartagena and Purdue deepened.

Dr. Simpson returned to Colombia in May with Dr. Sara McComb, Purdue School of Industrial Engineering, to co-lead a Paymaster Study Abroad program on Engineering and Public Health in the Service Sector. This time, the program combined 2 students from Nursing and 13 from Industrial Engineering. Their 9 day visit was split between Cartagena and Medellin, where they collaborated with several universities and hospitals. The program’s goal was to have students from both the US and Medellin work together to identify one important issue related to the local health care system and to suggest improvement possibilities. The association of students from both countries and different programs ensured that their work had a multicultural and interdisciplinary approach that produced valuable results.


Purdue-Colombia-Panama Collaboration

Last May, a group of twelve students visited Panama and Colombia as part of the Construction and Supply Chain Exploration in Colombia and the Panama Canal Program, led by Dr. Edie Schmidt, Purdue Polytechnic. While in Colombia, the group spent 5 days in Medellin for an immersion course at EAFIT. This allowed them to gain basic Spanish and cultural knowledge skills. After that, they did a quick visit to Cartagena, and then Panama, where they stayed for a full week. 2 students and 2 faculty members from EAFIT joined them there. In Panama they studied construction and supply chain management issues related to the canal. They also got a preview of the expansion which opened on June 26th, they visited the Free Trade Zone, had a closer look at the canal’s lock systems, and enjoyed the new project by the canal called Panama Pacifico.

The program received a grant from Purdue’s International Programs office, which lowered costs for students. This facilitated the enrollment of graduate students, who constituted half of the group. Graduates, according to Dr. Schmidt, are an important reason why she became interested in leading a study abroad program such as this one. A couple of her former students are originally from Colombia, and they facilitated the contacts with universities and companies that the group visited while in Medellin and Cartagena. The program’s participants enjoyed their stay to the point that many of them, says Dr. Schmidt, wish to go back.

Purdue students with professor Edie Schmidt visiting Guatapé, 2016


Purdue students with professor Edie Schmidt visiting the Argos cement plant in Medellín, 2016


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