Wednesday Spotlight: Dr. Kris Irwin, Adelante Award Winner

The UGA Costa Rica Adelante Award honors a UGA faculty or staff member who has made major contributions to the University of Georgia’s Campus in Costa Rica.  These contributions may have come in any of the following areas:

  • Study abroad program development and on-going instruction on study abroad programs with particular attention to student mentoring and service-learning;
  • Incorporation of international content from Costa Rica into the curriculum in his or her field;
  • Cevelopment of ongoing research initiatives based at UGA Costa Rica;
  • Significant contributions to develop the UGA Costa Rica Campus infrastructure;
  • Significant contributions toward ecological and social sustainability of the UGA Costa Rica Campus;
  • Public service and outreach in the San Luis / Monteverde community;
  • Leading international conferences and symposia based at the UGA Costa Rica Campus;
  • Significant contributions to the Latino community in and around the Athens community;
  • Commitment to fostering relationships, educational or otherwise, between the Athens and San Luis/Monteverde campuses and communities.

The Adelante Award is given annually by consensus decision among the UGA Costa Rica Athens Office Staff and the UGA Costa Rica Campus Staff in review of all nominations.  Preference is given to individuals with demonstrated accomplishments in two or more of these areas.

Dr. Quint Newcomer’s Comments:

Kris has been highly engaged with UGA Costa Rica since very early on, even before I arrived. His first trip to UGA CR was in September 2003. He brought a group of 15 students and in-service teachers down to Costa Rica in March 2006 as part of an IDEAS Grant: “Environmental Education in Costa Rica: A UGA Service-Learning Experience” in which they interacted with faculty from the National University and the National Biodiversity Institute. They planted trees and learned about environmental education and Kris found his home away from home in San Luis. He then received a Scholarship of Engagement Grant and came back to UGA Costa Rica in 2009 to support community outreach activities in aquaculture pond management and to begin work on a service-learning toolkit to support faculty teaching at UGA Costa Rica. Based on the work completed in 2009, he was selected as a Senior Service-Learning Scholar to continue to develop the UGA Costa Rica Service-Learning Toolkit, which he completed in 2010. He has since helped with training several faculty to engage in service-learning as part of their education abroad programs with UGA Costa Rica. In 2010, we co-presented about service-learning at UGA Costa Rica at the “People, Place, & Partners: Building and Sustaining Engagement in Critical Times” Gulf-South Summit.

Kris Irwin Fishing

Since 2006, Kris has helped me write and submit at least seven funding proposals, including representing UGA for the annual WK Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Award. Most recently, throughout 2013, Kris participated in the drafting of a white paper which led to the development of a large Coupled Natural and Human Systems grant we submitted to NSF. Our fingers remain crossed! In Fall 2011, Kris initiated contact with the US EPA International Office, and has helped foster an on-going dialog since that time with the team who serves as the advisors for the Central American region regarding high-level environmental policy planning and technical support. Together with Warnell colleague Jay Shelton, we have made four presentations to different EPA groups, at both Athens and Atlanta offices, regarding the work of UGA Costa Rica and possibilities of research collaborations with US EPA.

 In 2013, Kris and I launched a new spring break program, Tropical Reforestation, offering a hands-on service-learning field experience in support of the UGA Costa Rica carbon offset reforestation program. Enrollment more than doubled between 2013 to 2014. Kris supervised graduate student Micheal Heldreth in the development of a nursery management and tree monitoring protocol, which is helping us to standardize the management of the program and has been critical to help us begin to measure tree growth rates over time as well as gather other critical site data and develop detailed plotting and mapping for the 30,000 plus trees we have planted as part of this project.

Dr. Kris Irwin (center) with Dr. Jay Shelton (left) and Lucas Ramirez (right).
Dr. Kris Irwin (center) with Dr. Jay Shelton (left) and Lucas Ramirez (right).

 In addition to his engagement as an educator of students, as a researcher, and as a leader of community engagement and outreach, Kris has been a tireless champion of UGA Costa Rica, encouraging his colleagues to get involved, serving on the UGA Costa Rica Academic Advisory Board, and perhaps most importantly, he keeps me laughing when I most need a good dose of humor.

 I’ve told you many of the highlights of my work with Kris over the past 8 years. There’s equally as much I haven’t mentioned here. For his many, many contributions and steadfast support, the UGA Costa Rica Athens Office staff and Costa Rica Campus staff have unanimously selected Dr. Kris Irwin to receive the 2014 UGA Costa Rica Adelante Award.

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