About the Service Learning for Women program
Women in agriculture become leaders in meeting the challenges of our global community.
The mission of NMSU Service Learning for Women is to empower women from developing nations to achieve their highest potential and be catalysts for positive change in their home countries through a cross-cultural exchange at New Mexico State University.
- To improve the lives of women through education.
- To help women reach equality in agricultural careers and in positions of power and influence.
- To give women ideas, contacts, information, and resources they can share in their home countries to benefit others.
How SLW was created
The NMSU SLW began in late 2010, when Linda Stout worked with Development Director Mark Gladden to create an agriculture scholarship at NMSU. This scholarship was specifically for a New Mexico woman who needed a second chance at financial support.
Inspired by her travels and the good experience with the first scholarship, Stout wanted to extend the reach of her scholarship funds to countries in the world where women do most of the farming. She found great inspiration in the story of Wangari Maathai of Kenya. She asked Gladden to investigate the creation of an agriculture scholarship for an African woman, someone who could have the potential to create positive changes in her country like Nobel Peace Prize winner Maathai, whose Green Belt Movement not only transformed the ecology of Kenya but resulted in the empowerment of women and a democracy movement.
When Mr. Gladden reported the expense involved in educating one African woman for four years, Stout realized it was too large and risky an investment for her to make. She began to think in terms of shorter programs serving many women. She developed a mission and goals for the project that focused on empowering women to become catalysts for positive change in their countries. Gladden reached out to numerous faculty and staff of College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) to find someone with knowledge of Africa and the inspirational Maathai. Dr. Michael O'Neill, Professor in the College of ACES, responded and provided information about several organizations he knew from his years of working in Africa. Because he was particularly familiar with ICRAF*, with which he had developed a memo of understanding with NMSU, he suggested African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), which is hosted by ICRAF. AWARD's goals aligned with Stout's.
Dr. O'Neill proposed a service learning program, which would benefit both the women and NMSU. The three began to discuss the service learning idea with Vicki Wilde, Director of AWARD and Helga Recke, Science Coordinator of AWARD, in a series of SKYPE calls. It was at Recke's suggestion that Extension be the primary educational focus for the women because agricultural technology transfer is a weak link in Africa. The concept that the team developed included offering learning and experiential opportunities at NMSU and its research centers. In return, the women would make presentations at NMSU, sharing their work and experience with classes and other gatherings.
Meanwhile, Mr. Gladden began searching for a faculty member in the College of ACES willing to volunteer to develop and direct the service learning project. Dr. Brenda Seevers, Professor in Agricultural and Extension Education, agreed to take on the role. Seevers was welcomed and viewed as the perfect faculty sponsor. Seevers, ACES web developer and graduate student Connie Padilla, and donor Linda Stout met to take the concept to the first level of planning. Seevers and Padilla eventually filled the four-week program with numerous growth and learning opportunities for the women with learning benefits accruing to NMSU in the process, while Dr. O'Neill agreed to oversee mentor coordination to ensure that each participant had a long-term relationship with the university. Because this type of program had very little precedence at NMSU, many procedural hurdles arose. Gladden did the extensive legwork required to sell cooperating departments on the vision in order to clear the obstacles and make the financial and logistical plans work.
Primary funding for the NMSU SLW was provided by Linda Stout. During the inaugural year, an additional generous commitment was provided by Dr. O'Neill via the Jose Fernandez Memorial Chair in Crop Production. A smaller commitment was provided by The College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
*AWARD (http://awardfellowships.org) is the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development, a program of Gender and Diversity Program (http://www.genderdiversity.cgiar.org/), a program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) (http://www.cgiar.org). The Gender and Diversity Program is headquartered in Nairobi at the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF)** (http://worldagroforestrycentre.org).