CMN to Partner With University in Belize

May 15th, 2005 | By | Category: 16-4: International Indigenous Education, Tribal College News

Last year the College of Menominee Nation (CMN, Keshena, WI) received a grant from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service to explore building an international research partnership between CMN and Galen University in Belize.

“The grant allowed us to begin a process of creating a long-term partnership between the two institutions based upon our common values of instruction and research in sustainable development,” explains Dr. William Van Lopik, academic program director for sustainable development at CMN.

A small group of CMN faculty and administrators, led by President Dr. Verna Fowler, traveled to Belize (Central America) for 10 days in January. They met with administrators and faculty from Galen University to discuss areas of shared research interests, faculty and student exchanges, and sharing of resources.

“It was a rich learning experience to see how the staff at Galen University is locally involved in the preservation of Mayan culture, securing indigenous land rights, and the sustainable development of natural resources,” says Van Lopik.

The chief forestry officer for the government of Belize described conservation plans for one of the last pristine tropical rainforests in the Western Hemisphere. He explained they had to implement their plan with a budget less than most tribal colleges’ budgets. Dr. Filiberto Penadas, director of the Tumul K’in Center of Learning, described how the unique school integrates traditional Mayan culture and beliefs into the entire school curriculum.

The group also visited several very remote Mayan villages and talked with local leaders about land tenure and cultural integrity. Van Lopik said, “We learned that Mayans in Belize share many of the same challenges, hopes, and dreams that the Menominee in Wisconsin share. We were touched by the gracious hospitality during our entire trip.”

This summer CMN faculty and staff will reciprocate that hospitality. CMN will host a group of faculty and administrators from Galen University. “We will introduce them to our unique college and the Menominee community. A formal, long-term relationship between Galen University and CMN will offer many future benefits and learning opportunities to our students and faculty,” Van Lopik says.

For more information, contact William Van Lopik by telephone (715) 799-1308 or email

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