VIU welcomes first cohort of Belizean QEII Scholars

Celebrating cross-cultural learning with QEII scholars from VIU and Belize. From left: Aaron Wong, Stacey Cayetano, Teunesha Evertse, Shirley Humes, Darren Lucas, Stephanie Govier, Kala Mackintosh, Kenny Williams, Eric Sanchez, Alfred Cal, Devan Cronshaw.

Shirley Humes is keen to help communities deal with issues of coastal development in her home country of Belize. And she aims to do that by applying the knowledge she gains at Vancouver Island University (VIU) over the next two years.

Humes, a planner in Belize’s Ministry of Natural Resources, is enrolled in VIU’s Master of Community Planning program. She’s interested in the impact of unplanned tourism developments on Indigenous coastal communities. “I want to learn as much as I can here,” says Humes, who hails from Punta Gorda, the southernmost town in Belize. “I want to see the different ways that planning is being done, and what I can take back home.”

In September, VIU welcomed Humes and four other Belizean students as part of its Building Resilience in Coastal Communities program (BRiCC). The University also welcomed back to Canada its first cohort of outbound VIU scholars, who recently returned from internships and research projects in Belize, which is located on the eastern coast of Central America.

“We’re connecting students across the Commonwealth,” says Darrell Harvey, VIU’s International Projects Coordinator. “There is huge benefit for VIU in cross-cultural exchange and learning – both in terms of students going to Belize and working in an international setting, and then also playing host to international students.”

Funded by the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program, VIU’s BRiCC initiative will award more than $800,000 in scholarships over three years to 31 undergraduate, graduate and international students. VIU chose to partner with Belize because of shared challenges and opportunities around coastal resilience and climate change.

Stacey Cayetano, another Belizean QEII scholar, is enrolled in VIU’s Master of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Applications program; in Belize, she worked as a GIS technician at the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute.

Her research at VIU will examine the effects of climate change, tourism and rapid development on Caye Caulker, a coral island off the Belizean coast. She plans to look at ways to lessen the impact of erosion on the island’s beachfront. “I want to become a better GIS professional back home,” she says.

The exchange initiative has also provided valuable learning experiences for VIU participants such as Devan Cronshaw, a graduate student in the Master of Community Planning program. Cronshaw recently returned to Nanaimo from Belize, where he spent more than three months researching waterfront development. “It was amazing to be immersed in a different culture,” he says. “I was able to gain skills, meet people and make a lot of connections.”

The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships program is managed through a partnership of Universities Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada and Canadian universities. This program is made possible with financial support from the Government of Canada, provincial governments and the private sector, including VIU’s local funding partners: the Nanaimo Foundation and the Parksville-Qualicum Foundation. VIU’s BRiCC program runs until the end of 2018.

To view this release online, please visit VIU News.