Students from The University of Tulsa recently returned from JumpstartTU in Panama, a leadership program designed to prepare freshmen for university life prior to beginning their first year as college students. Participants experienced cultural activities and participated in a three-day intensive academic field project learning about biodiversity, global trade and world consumption.
Oxley College of Health Sciences Dean Robin Ploeger participated in the trip and said she learned things that will help her as dean of the college. “The opportunity to travel to Panama as part of the JumpStartTU program was an amazing way for these 39 students to begin their time at TU,” said Ploeger. “Most arrived for the trip without knowing anyone and now they have 38 friends when they return to campus in August. This trip provided students the opportunity to think in a broader sense about global issues, focus their lens relating to other cultures, and prepare for their time as a TU student.
Kyla Sloan, an incoming TU graduate student currently working toward her master’s in speech-language pathology, was one of three student leaders who helped lead JumpstartTU. “I was very eager to get involved and serve as a resource for the incoming students,” said Sloan. “In our sessions, I modeled how to practice critical thinking and curiosity by asking questions and interacting with the partner organizations.”
The trip to Panama and the wetlands preservation field project was a perfect fit for Sloan as she and her family were impacted by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. “Our home and all of our belongings were destroyed and we experienced the same impact as residents in Panama whose homes were flooded in 2015 due to the destruction of water reservoirs,” said Sloan.
During the trip, Sloan and a number of the students worked with Wetlands International to learn proper ways in which water reservoirs should be maintained. The TU contingent heard from Vice Mayor Raisa Banfield who explained how Panama is working to maintain water reservoirs, grow commercial trade and protect residents. “The removal of rain forest and wetlands are causing flood waters to flow into residential area causing wild animal likes snakes and alligators to migrate into the backyards of community members because their habitats were destroyed,” said Sloan.
On the second day of the field project, Jumpstart TU students and leaders got their hands dirty working with community members to clear water canals full of overgrown vegetation to help prevent future flooding. When asked about the benefits of this program for incoming students, Sloan said, “What I saw from JumpstartTU bolstered my already high hopes for the growth and the intellectual capacity I expect to see from this incoming class.”
Participants stayed at the City of Knowledge located on what was previously the U.S. base when the U.S. operated the Panama Canal. Panama is humid and tropical surrounded by the Pacific to the south and the Atlantic to the North. Read more about JumpstartTU here.