“You stop learning, you start dying,” insists Ruben Puentes, Professor and Director of Partnerships at Future Generations Graduate School. His career reflects his desire to expand – as a soil scientist for a government agency, a teacher for a U.S. university, the leader of a network of researchers in transnational migration, Associate Vice President of the Rockefeller Foundation, and a part-time potato grower on his farm in Uruguay. For Puentes, life is always a classroom.
|Puentes (center) listening to a discussion between a farmer and a local expert in Manaus, Brazil.
Puentes’ task at the Graduate School is to strengthen the Master’s Degree in Applied Community Change curriculum along with student teaching and advising. “This is a unique opportunity to continue learning, not only from faculty colleagues but from students themselves.”
Puentes’ students appreciate his global experience that links community development, natural resources management, and agriculture. Most are practitioners themselves with diverse experiences, and their questions force Puentes to continue learning.
“Education is in the learning, not the teaching,” Puentes says. “Future Generations Graduate School is the place to be for those with a passion for learning; it is difficult to find a better place either to start or continue a lifelong learning journey.”
This is how George Rupp, former dean of Harvard Divinity School and president of Rice University, Columbia University, and the International Rescue Committee, refers to Future Generations Graduate School in his book Beyond Individualism: The Challenge of Inclusive Communities.
The central claim that Rupp makes in his book is that modern Western individualism must engage with the more collective patterns that are common in much of the world. He makes a compelling case for enhancing local capacities – educating and training individuals within communities in order to do the work that is needed there, rather than relying on help from the outside. Not only does this facilitate the delivery of services, it prevents outmigration and keeps human capital in the community, creating a multiplier effect that continues even after relief workers from other areas are gone. Education, he writes, “cuts across all of the exemplary practices.”
He cites Future Generations’ efforts, saying “its programs are specifically designed for staff of international relief and development organizations. Students continue in their positions, interacting with faculty and other students online. Over a two-year period they participate in four one-month residential sessions with faculty and fellow students. Each student also develops a two year practicum for field-based research in his or her own community. There is limited financial aid, which together with some support from the student’s organization makes the two-year program affordable. The degree earned is an MA in Applied Community Change. I can testify that IRC national staff members have enrolled in the program to great benefit.”