Bonnie Furman, a biologist at the University of Alaska-Anchorage who has extensive international experience teaching, conducting research, and consulting in Latin America, South Asia, and the Middle East, has been selected as the Director of ACM’s off-campus study programs in Costa Rica.
“We’re fortunate to have someone with Dr. Furman’s combination of international and scientific background joining our excellent staff and research advisors in Costa Rica,” said Joan Gillespie, ACM Vice President and Director of Off-Campus Study Programs. “She not only understands the challenges of cultural adjustment, but she’s also committed to the value of cultural immersion through engagement with the community and is planning to encourage every student to do a volunteer project while they’re on the program.”
As the Director in Costa Rica, Furman will be responsible for leading the academic, administrative, and financial aspects of the two consortial programs based in the nation’s capital city of San José.
During the fall semester, she will teach an elective course in the Costa Rica: Community Engagement in Public Health, Education, & the Environment program. In the spring, she will supervise the research component of the Costa Rica: Field Research in the Environment, Social Sciences, & Humanities program, with responsibility for identifying field sites where students conduct their research, selecting and overseeing the research advisors who work with students, coordinating the ACM protocol for protecting human subjects in research, and visiting students at their field sites.
Gillespie noted that Furman brings solid research and teaching credentials to the position. “She has supervised students working both individually and on group projects,” Gillespie said, “and her specialties in areas such as agriculture and seed banks fit very well with Costa Rica’s national emphasis on sustainable development.”
Furman is coming to ACM from a position as Term Assistant Professor and Academic Coordinator in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, where she has been responsible for curriculum development and course implementation. In addition, she has taught undergraduate biology courses, both lecture and laboratory sections, and developed and taught an upper division course on the Biology of Food.
Fall 2013 Costa Rica program participants with Spanish Language Coordinator Mario Morera (center).
Photo courtesy of Zachary Steedman
She has a Ph.D. in Conservation Genetics, with a minor in biotechnology, from North Carolina State University. Her master’s (University of California-Davis) degree was in agronomy with an emphasis in plant breeding and plant genetic resources and her bachelor’s (University of Wisconsin-Madison) degrees were in agronomy and South Asian Studies. She participated in off-campus study as an undergraduate, when she spent a year as an exchange scholar in Nepal.
Throughout her career, Furman has collaborated and taught across cultures and in several languages. After college, she returned to Nepal to work with farmers as an assistant agronomist with the Peace Corps. As a Professor of Applied Genetics at EARTH University, an international sustainable agriculture university in Costa Rica, she taught two courses titled “Applied Genetics” and “Biotechnology for Managers” in Spanish to agricultural students from 17 different Latin American countries.
At Western Kentucky University, Furman led a research program in conservation genetics, directing undergraduate research. She has also advised students on graduation thesis projects, and provided mentoring in statistical analysis and thesis writing.
Furman has served as an Associate in the UC-Davis Agricultural Experiment Station, collaborating on research in plant genetic diversity and working with the university’s Genetic Resources Conservation Program, and has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, and other organizations. She has published and presented widely on topics such as conservation and genetic diversity and relationships.
ACM has a long history in Costa Rica, having continuously operated off-campus study programs there for 50 years. The consortial field research program was begun in 1964 and a program focusing on culture and society was added ten years later.
As the ACM Costa Rica Director, Furman succeeds Dr. Chris Vaughan, who retired this summer after leading the program for five years. Prior to becoming Director, Vaughan had served as a research advisor in biology and conservation for the Field Research program for many years, and he participated in the program as a student at Grinnell College.