The University of Virginia's Panama Initiative, which began in 2007-08, reinforces and expands upon the notion of interdisciplinary problem solving.  The Initiative operates on five fronts, joining faculty and students from the Environmental Thought and Practice Program, the Department of Environmental Sciences, the School of Engineering, the Trans-University Center for Global Health in the School of Medicine, and the Darden School of Business to promote cross-disciplinary teaching and research.  

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An essential collaborator in Panamá is the City of Knowledge (Ciudad del Saber), a portal to Panamanian academic institutions, domestic and international government agencies, and businesses.  The City is run by a private, non-profit Foundation and its mission is to “promote and facilitate synergy between universities, scientific research centers, businesses, and international organizations.” 

Other collaborating partners in Panamá are the Gorgas Memorial Institute, an organization dedicated to research on diseases and preventative medicine in the tropics, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, a part of the Smithsonian Institution that is dedicated to understanding biological diversity.

The Panama Initiative's programs occur against a dynamic economic, social, and political backdrop in Panamá. Panamá’s economy is doing relatively well: GDP grew at an annual rate of five percent in 2010. However, the country’s poverty rate is thirty percent. Panamá has committed to the first major expansion of the Panama Canal, which will cost $5 billion.  But related projects have proved controversial, like plans to build hydroelectric dams and an open-pit copper mine in areas occupied by indigenous peoples.

The Panama Initiative is a model collaborative international program, combining the strengths, capabilities, and leadership of the University of Virginia with those of our partners in Panama to advance teaching and research and to help shape sustainable and equitable development.

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School children in Colón.

© 2011 University of Virginia · All photos by Panama Initiative students and faculty ·Environmental Thought and Practice · 434.924.3964 ·  Last update: 5 Nov 2011
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