Arid Lands Newsletter--link to home page No. 40, Fall/Winter 1996
The CCD, Part I: Africa and the Mediterranean

The ALRS graduate students' corner

News and views from the inside
by Teena Hayden

"The University of Arizona has been a leader in arid lands research (....) The multidisciplinary nature of the ALRS program is an important attraction and resource."

[The following article is an edited summary of the comments made and compiled by the Arid Lands Resource Sciences graduate students as input to the Self-Study Committee for the ALRS Program Review. It was created via e-mail discussions among the entire ALRS student body (excluding a few who are in the field or on leave), and several colloquium class hours dedicated to brain-storming and consensus-building.]

Why did we all choose the Arid Lands Resource Sciences program at the University of Arizona rather than another university or another department within the U of A? A pattern emerged from our discussions which seemed to reflect a common attitude that the skills most students wanted from their experience here centered more on reaching and affecting the real world than on attaining new peaks of theory. We were attracted to the ALRS program as a preparation for meeting the growing practical challenges facing arid regions around the world. It is an applied program, not emphasizing study in a theoretical vacuum but rather methods for improving people's lives in arid environments and to help achieve the sustainability of resources in those regions. Additionally, projects of the Office of Arid Lands Studies provide opportunities for work while learning and initial job contacts that can be valuable after graduation.

The University of Arizona has been a leader in arid lands research, with numerous projects around the world and highly experienced faculty and staff. Located in an arid region, living laboratories are close at hand. Its reputation, and particularly that of the ALRS department, has attracted students from different parts of the United States and overseas. This itself adds a variety of viewpoints that is fundamental for understanding global issues. Many of these students are already seasoned with work experience, are of above-average maturity, and have clearly defined research objectives.

The multidisciplinary nature of the ALRS program is an important attraction and resource. Our subject of study is defined by climate, however, the unique problems of arid lands have both physical and social/cultural aspects, therefore our investigations must utilize more than one science to create solutions. Each of the program tracks within ALRS is interdisciplinary in scope as well: for example, within the development track, analyses of factors such as climate, agriculture, economics, and culture are all needed in the approach to a project. This interdisciplinary approach allows us the flexibility to design unique programs involving both the physical and cultural skills essential to achieving real-world results affecting human groups. It also provides the means of obtaining the specific tools we need for addressing our individual problem objectives. Given our declared special interest in arid lands issues, it would be very difficult to reach these goals in any other single department here, or at another university.

The bottom line is the students' view that ALRS can provide a degree -- a very reputable degree -- that would give us the expertise and credentials for meaningful and creative work on a wide variety of arid lands problems around the world. The unifying themes which seemed to emerge from these self-study discussions were pride in the uniqueness of the program and diversity of the students it attracted. We would like to thank Dr. Joseph Hoffmann for allowing us the freedom and privacy of hashing these topics out in student-only colloquium time, and also thank Drs. Ken Foster and Joe Hoffmann for addressing our burning questions concerning the delicate issue of money.

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Following is a list of current ALRS graduate students, their country of origin, and their program track:

Mohammed Al-Sabry (Yemen), Development
Stuart Black (England), Physical
Susan Carmody (US), Ethnoecological
Mamadou Diallo (Mauritania), Development
Samuel Drake (US), Physical
Garri Dryden (US), Physical
Amy Eisenberg (US), Ethnoecological
Barbara Eiswerth (US), Physical
Teena Hayden (US), Economic Botany
Susan Kliman (US), Physical
Alejandro Leon (Chile), Development
Mark LeRud (US), Economic Botany
Cynthia Lindquist (US), Physical
John Maingi (Kenya), Ethnoecological
James Mandaville (US), Ethnoecological
Len Milich (US), Development
Laura Monti (US), Ethnoecological
Barron Orr (US), Physical
Lucinda Salo (US), Economic Botany
Susan Skirvin (US), Physical
Daniela Soleri (US), Ethnoecological
Terry Sprouse (US), Development
Petra Tschakert (Austria), Development
Erasmo Valenzuela (Mexico), Development
Yi Zheng (China), Development

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Teena Hayden, who compiled this article, can be reached at:

Soil, Water and Plant Analysis Lab
Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences Dept.
The University of Arizona
Ph: 520-621-9703
FAX: 520-621-1647

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