Equity in Designing a Summer International Research Experience: Recruitment and Partnerships for a Graduate Field School in El Salvador

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences; Department of Social Sciences


An inclusive international research experience for graduate students is being developed based on equitable, interdisciplinary opportunities in field research and training and proactive efforts in recruiting a diverse cohort. Michigan Technological University, the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc., and Lutheran World Relief are collaborating to support local development interventions for agricultural and water-access challenges in the “Dry Corridor” of El Salvador. The three-year effort is supported by the National Science Foundation International Research Experiences for Students program. This project, titled “Agricultural Community Adaptations to Extreme Hydrometeorological Events,” recruited students for the summer 2020 experience before the COVID-19 interruption. Lessons from this past year pertaining to student recruitment, application selection, and preparatory training will enhance the processes for the coming year. Students were recruited through professional meetings, listservs, social media, and professional contacts. Proactive efforts were implemented to broaden student diversity. The selection process was systematically structured to evaluate applicant experience abroad, language abilities, and academic program relevance to the project goals. Pre-departure training content was developed to provide students with relevant tools and background for the travel, living, and research methods training in El Salvador. The project teams work with universities and governmental agencies in El Salvador. Agronomists, hydrologists, geologists, social scientists, and engineers are collaborating to explore new ways to couple participatory and hydrological research for informing adaptive strategies to water scarcity in agricultural communities. A planning visit in 2019 sought input from local farmers, representatives from governmental and non-governmental institutions, and project partners to help prioritize project research plans. This pre-planning approach fostered greater integration of the interdisciplinary project activities; planning to enhance local engagement in field work and continuous data collection; and development of insightful recruitment and promotional materials.

Publication Title

World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2021