Gaining a Broader Perspective
CALS graduate student gains new outlook in Uganda
Seeking a life-changing opportunity, Anna Pratt traveled to Uganda on a 12-day venture that focused on educational training and agricultural support to the African country.
A graduate student studying agricultural education in the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), Pratt jumped at the chance to gain a broader perspective about the educational system. The December 2018 trip was coordinated by Vivayic, a learning solutions company, and Field of Hope, a volunteer organization dedicated to international agricultural development.
“I wanted to learn more about the system of education, why the system is the way it is, how to help teachers be successful, and gain a broader understanding of the education system.” Pratt said.
Pratt grew up on a cattle ranch in Blackfoot and earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from CALS in 2016 before returning to pursue a master’s degree. She was able to travel to Uganda with support from the CALS Excellence Fund, which provides funding for students who want to take opportunities to enhance their learning and education outside the classroom.
“I would not have been able to go on the trip if it wasn’t for the Dean’s Excellence Fund, I can’t thank them enough for helping me,” Pratt said. “The financial burden during this time of my life would’ve been too much.”
Gaining a broader perspective of the education system is part of what Pratt is passionate about in her studies. When she learned of the opportunity to journey to Uganda from her brother’s fiancé, who works as a representative for Vivayic, she didn’t hesitate to take the trip. She was interested in learning what was going on in the country and helping implement new teaching practices.
“We teach about other countries through the lens of what they don’t have — this was a chance to learn about actual issues people in that country were faced with, understand what their actual needs are, and what people are doing to try to help them,” Pratt said. “We have an understanding of developing countries that lacks the context of what’s actually there.”
While in Uganda, Pratt had the opportunity to help with local farmer programming and agricultural education in schools. She helped train teachers on facilitation strategies, how to manage labs, improve classroom objectives, and develop field experiences through Field of Hope and curriculum created by Vivayic.
Bridging the Gap
Pratt’s experience in Uganda directly relates to her thesis and research project. She will graduate with her master’s in May 2019.
“My project focuses on the relationship between agricultural education teachers and agricultural education supporters, the relationship between the two people in different lines of work, who lead different lives, and how they can work together for a common goal.” Pratt said.
Pratt’s thesis looks at people who give their time, talent and resources to agricultural education programs, surveying those people and understanding their preferences in programs.
“I hope to bridge the gap between agricultural educators and community members that want to make a difference and be involved,” she said.
The Burden of Knowledge
Pratt’s outlook moving forward was also affected by her experience.
“The first thing it will help me do is not assume I know something purely based on my own experience, be able to see a different culture and not just focus on disparity, but actually see things for the complex issues that they are,” she said. “Parts of my life will be forever changed because I went to Uganda. My biggest takeaway was the kind of burden of knowledge that someone gets once they learn something. Sometimes you gain knowledge with weight.”
Pratt also credits faculty and staff in the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education and throughout CALS for her success.
“I think the faculty and college leadership here are very helpful and accommodating in helping students accomplish their goals,” she said. “You really can go anywhere from here and from this college.”
For students considering an experience abroad, Pratt heeds some advice.
“Embrace the fact that you don’t know anything and don’t be afraid to learn as much as you can.”
Article by Hannah Doumit, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Published in April 2019