This weekend at commencement, there will be an abundance of smiles in the O’Connell Center as graduates and their families celebrate our students’ accomplishments. But the shouts of joy will not be restricted to Gainesville, or even to the confines of our city, state, or nation. Many of our graduates, particularly among those receiving advanced degrees, have ventured from countries far away to attend the University of Florida.
Among these will be 13 master’s students whose journey started 990 miles to the south in their home nation of Haiti. These students are part of a UF-directed effort, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), to build Haiti’s capacity to improve its agricultural sector. This Feed the Future Haiti Appui à la Recherche et au Développement Agricole project was launched to enhance and expand Haiti’s efforts to address food insecurity and undernutrition by strengthening and supporting the country’s public and private agricultural institutions.
Directing a program that has operations in Florida and Haiti is challenging. International activities often require additional effort and diligence due to challenges with logistics, infrastructure, in-country laws, security, and US regulations. Yet the impact of these efforts can be remarkable in terms of advancing our understanding of specific global challenges, in affecting solutions at the points of greatest need, and in growing as an institution by expanding our perspectives beyond Gainesville.
In my role at UF, I have had the privilege of visiting several locations of UF global research. While the science we do is outstanding, I am most impacted by the people engaged in the challenge, both UF researchers and our international partners. Their dedication and resilience inspires me, and I always gain new perspectives when interacting with people whose life experiences differ so much from my own.
The graduates from the Haiti USAID program represent just a small sample of a huge cadre of international UF students who are central to our mission as a leading educational and research institution. In our research endeavors, UF has activities in over 100 countries, with talented people from many countries contributing to our mission both here and abroad. UF’s international richness is seen within our students, our faculty and our staff, many of whom came to the US to study and pursue their professional careers.
We are very fortunate to have educational and research partnerships well outside of our borders, and people within our UF family from all parts of the globe. From Brussels to Beijing, Tokyo to Tel Aviv, Pretoria to Port-au-Prince, the University of Florida’s connectivity to all parts of the world is real and critically important to our success.
So to these UF graduates from all parts of the world, for your remarkable accomplishments, I say konpliman, привітання, glückwünsche, 축하합니다, parabens, 祝贺, and congratulations! We are proud to have you as members of the Gator Nation.
Featured image by Kimberly Pierre