It is our distinct pleasure to introduce the 2017 International Community Scholars.


Michelle Chang

Michelle Chang is currently a Public Health and Integrative Biology student at East Los Angeles College. As she states, “being an international community scholar in the UCF REU Site means being fully immersed in a community’s culture and partnering with community members in research. I believe that communities are an important aspect to providing insight and solutions to the environmental issues that scientists are trying to mitigate. Engaging in citizen science and community-based participatory research empowers communities to reclaim their homeland, environment, and health. To me, this experience allows me to immerse myself in the culture of Belize and conduct research with dignity, ethics, and humanity.”




Kate Brandt

Kate Brandt is a junior at Rutgers University double majoring in geography and environmental planning. As she states, “for the past two years I have conducted research through multiple projects- I monitored stream quality in New Jersey, used GIS to investigate urban food deserts, and shared my skills and knowledge through workshops for other students. This program is a dream come true due to my strong interests in human-environmental relations and community based academic work. I am ecstatic to apply what I have learned thus far in my undergraduate career to the UCF REU work in Belize this summer.”



Brenner Burholder

Brenner Burkholder is a junior at Goshen College studying environmental science with a focus on sustainability. As he writes, “I spent summer 2016 studying abroad in Senegal, and this experience piqued my interest in how climate change affects human communities, in addition to the more general interaction between humans and the environment. I am excited to be an international community scholar in the UCF REU in Belize because I want to integrate social justice and science for the common good. This opportunity will help me learn how to do research in ways that address community needs and uphold informed community participation, both of which are critical to finding solutions to local environmental problems like flooding. I am thrilled to learn spatial analysis techniques and hope to make connections between many academic disciplines in the research we do!”



Erin Butler

Erin Butler is an anthropology and sociology and math double major at Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, MI. She is passionate about the intersections of mathematics and social justice, numbers and people. As she states, “I am beyond excited to be working at one of these intersections of math and justice with the community of Hopkins in Belize and with the others on the Citizen Science team! To me, to be an international community scholar is to be intentional, to be invested, to be reflective, to think critically about yourself and the systems around you, to communicate, and to work as a team. Being and doing all of these aspects of international community scholarship will certainly be a challenge but with the support of the team, I am up for that challenge!”



Julia Jeanty

Julia Jeanty is currently a third year Environmental Geosciences and Sustainability Studies double major at the University of Florida pursuing certificates in Meteorology and Climatology and Geospatial Information Analysis. As she notes, “I am humbled at the opportunity to be an international community scholar in the UCF REU site as Belize’s issues are complex and I believe that they require an immersive and comprehensive approach in dealing with them. Engaging in community research in a developing country means prioritizing the culture, laws, and customs of the nation and making a conscious, daily effort to prioritize the mantra of cultural relativism in order to best work with the Belizeans, instead of for them, is vital to ensure that the community research process is as cooperative and effective as possible. I am extremely excited for the Belize REU Program as I know that it will be a new adventure, a new opportunity to engage with nature not just in the classroom, but beyond, and I am certain that we have the tools and tenacity to make many useful contributions to the country.”


Rachel Layko

Rachel Layko is a sophomore studying biology with a marine science focus at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. As she states, “serving as an international community scholar is an incredible opportunity to grow as a researcher and a globally-minded citizen, to consider challenges that are not confined to political boundaries and collaborate across disciplines to address them. I am thrilled to be part of a dynamic process of learning from and listening to the community to design and conduct research that will best meet their needs and to address them to the best of my ability. I believe that, more than anything, community research should be relevant so that, at the end of the day, the question is not simply, “What have I accomplished?”, but also, “What are the ramifications of this accomplishment and how does the community benefit?”



Monica Lemus

Monica Lemus is a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara majoring in Geography with an emphasis in Geographic Information Science. As she states, “I am enthusiastic about collaborating with local communities in Belize and sharing my GIS knowledge while learning more about the local environment.  I am specifically fond of this research program because I know how much the implementation GIS can improve communities around the world. I know that in through this REU in Belize I will be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be working with a diverse set of people who will share their various skills. With the knowledge that I will gain from this REU experience, I hope to use GIS for my research in Latin America to improve water conservation, and agriculture.”



Chinonso Uzowihe

Chinonso Uzowihe is a second year environmental science major at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University. As he states, “I look forward to being an international community scholar because it will allow me to make positive changes on an international scale. While at the REU site, we will provide valuable geographic information that helps change the lives of citizens of Belize. Being able to work with the people of Belize, along with my fellow scholars, is the opportunity of a lifetime. The work we do here can be translated to other countries that are potentially facing similar problems. I am certain that this will be a summer to remember and I will gain countless memories from my time at the REU site.”