Patricia Bencivenga, University of Central Florida 

My name is Patricia Bencivenga and I am an undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida. I’m earning my bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Journalism Studies. For me, the elemental goal when conducting research is to provide new information to people that will ultimately benefit them. Thinking globally, being an international community scholar means connecting with the people I’m collecting data for. For the upcoming REU, I’m going to strive to connect with communities in Belize in order to gain an extensive understanding of our data. Being a community scholar involves analysis from the macro-level to the micro-level, and helps bring the abstract data into the reality that people live in. This research has the potential to help communities in so many areas of their lives and I am honored to take part in this experience. 

Robert Darlington, University of Wisconsin-Madison 

My name is Robert Darlington and I am double majoring in Cartography/GIS and Geography at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. An International Community Scholar to me is someone who looks to use their education and passion to help areas all around the world. In Madison, I’ve been involved with helping through projects that include a bordering lake’s quality, showing the importance of a community center’s needed funding and more. Finding this opportunity to be involved in Belize and bring these ideas of community research to a global scale and then being accepted to be included is incredibly exciting for me! This aligns very much with the interests and passions I’ve developed over my studies and experiences. I am very excited and can’t wait for it to start! 

Lucas Farmer, Ohio Wesleyan University 

My name is Lucas Farmer. I am currently a Junior at Ohio Wesleyan University, majoring in Geography with a primary focus on GIS (geographic information systems) and remote sensing.  I began to learn about the impact humans have on their community and environment through my involvement in Boy Scouts.  I came to understand the importance of participating in and aiding my community. Being a part of this REU program will give me the opportunity to help communities in a developing country and it’s a true honor. I’m very excited to be a part of something that can have the potential to bring a vibrant impact to the communities we will research with in Belize. Also, this program, being international, is going to challenge my world views and help me grow as an individual. I am looking forward to a very intensive, but very rewarding opportunity. 

Elli Furukawa, Barnard College of Columbia University 

My name is Elli Furukawa, and I am a junior at Barnard College of Columbia University majoring in Political Science and minoring in Environmental Science as well as Human Rights. In my view, being an international community scholar at the UCF REU site requires thoughtfulness, reflection, critical thinking, and a willingness to include the local community. I intend to humble myself to the fact that Hopkins community residents will have invaluable information that cannot be learned in textbooks or through research. Often times, researchers forget the inherent human element of international research, which ultimately, limits the applicability of their research. To combat this, I intend to prioritize the local community’s unique knowledge, wisdom, and advice to not only further our own research objectives, but to also understand the distinct culture, dynamic, and perspective of Hopkins’ residents. 

Rebecca Green, Northeastern University 

My name is Rebecca Green and I am a 4th year Sociology major with a minor in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality studies at Northeastern University. I am a community organizer, with a strong interest in issues of housing security, and the disproportionate consequences of climate change in already marginalized communities. I am passionate about social justice oriented, and community driven research. Being an international community scholar in the UCF REU Site means participating in an innovative and inspiring model of international research that centers and follows the leadership of community members. It means squarely facing and actively attempting to mitigate the power dynamics that are imbued in international research programs focused in the developing world. And it means developing meaningful relationships with fellow researchers and community members in Belize to collaboratively and creatively address local impacts of the global threat of climate change. 

Joshua Haralson, Wright State University 

My name is Joshua David Haralson.  I am a student at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.  My major is Geography.  Being an international community scholar in the UCF REU site means engaging with others in the scientific community to do research that will benefit the citizens of Belize.  Listening to the needs of the community and then working with my research team to find solutions is a critical part of this process.  It also means I will be building relationships with other people in a different culture that will be mutually beneficial. 


Sharon Huerta, Beloit College 

Sharon J. Huerta is a 1st generation college student, attending Beloit College in her junior year, and she is majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Education and Youth studies. After discovering GIS in her sophomore year of college, she realized what a powerful tool GIS was and has continued to look into ways it can be used to help marginalized communities. Being an international community scholar to her means being informed and using her skills and knowledge to promote change through action. Environmental Justice is an important issue in Sharon’s life, she advocates for communities of color and strives to raise awareness surrounding environmental racism. She hopes to create opportunities for marginalized communities and diversify the environmental sector through exposure, scholarships, mentorship and educational opportunities. Sharon also hopes by sharing her story as a 1st generation, low-income student she can inspire others to follow their passions. 

Sara Peluso, University of Central Florida 

My name is Sara Peluso, I am a student at UCF, majoring in environmental studies, minoring in biology and working on a certificate in GIS. Having the opportunity to work in this REU Site is the most exciting thing to ever happen to me. To be an international scholar means that I am able to learn in ways my classrooms never could, as well as share my knowledge with the people I meet. I genuinely believe that educating individuals and communities is the best way to promote change. I am excited to see how other cultures view the environment and solve problems while being able to use GIS skills to help the environment. 


Darby Relyea, University of Vermont 

My name is Darby Relyea and I am majoring in Political Science with a double minor in Geography and Geospatial Technologies at the University of Vermont. Firstly, it is an absolute honor to be an international community scholar in the UCF REU Site. In addition, being an international community scholar means I am versatile, adaptive, and personable. Overall, I think being an intentional community scholar means being a team player, open to new challenges and experiences.  


Karla Sofia Santiago Rivera 

My name is Karla Sofía Santiago Rivera and I’m currently studying Geology at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez Campus. For me, being an international community scholar in the UCF REU Site means having the chance to grow by enhancing my knowledge and obtaining the experience needed in order to accomplish my goals. Given the opportunity to participate in the program I know that I can learn what it takes to be a geologist through practice and research. Knowing that I will be working collaboratively also means improving and developing leadership through hard work and dedication. In other words, to be part of this REU program is to thrive as an individual and as part of a team with the same aspiration to prosper in the world of science. 

Jeremiah Anthony Righteous-RogersLouisiana State University 

I am Jeremiah Anthony Righteous-Rogers. I am a student at Louisiana State University pursuing dual degrees in mass communication and African and African-American studies. The opportunity to be an international community scholar is not only a beautiful opportunity but a rare one at that. To be an international community scholar is to have the privilege of learning about a different culture while it makes connections to mine. It is to partner with others in an endeavor to make the world a more beautiful place. It is to honor and respect another’s land, language, food and customs and know that your place is only to serve. It is to gain a family beyond borders which extend beyond a geographic area.  


Amber Rutstein, University of Central Florida 

My name is Amber Rutstein and I am a junior at the University of Central Florida. I am currently studying Environmental Studies with a planning, values and policy track as well as completing a certificate in GIS. I am beyond excited to join the UCF REU Citizen Science GIS research team this summer in Belize. I cannot wait to engage with the Belize community, become immersed in the culture, and have the opportunity to practice GIS mapping in an international research setting. I believe that studying the flooding and disaster management, marine debris and the coastal and island communities will make an incredible impact for the Belize community.