Tuesday, May 29, 2012

graduate returns to teach

The timing couldn't have been any more perfect. In 1994, when Coroico native Claudia Cerruto was ready to go to college and interested in studying Veterinary Science, she learned that the UAC-CP was open and offering classes. "It was really good for me," she said, "because I could stay close to my family."

UAC-CP Veterinary graduate Dr. Claudio Cerruto is now a professor at the College.

So, off she went to live and study in Carmen Pampa--just 45 minutes by public transport from her hometown. "I studied there for almost six years!" she said. "Carmen Pampa was a great experience; I have learned so much not only about medicine, but also about life, sharing, friendships, working, etc. Those six years in Carmen Pampa were awesome." She explained that she and her classmates in the Veterinary Science major were very close. They were good friends, Claudia said, who were happy to be together.

Claudia was the first graduate of the Veterinary Science Department. After finishing her studies at the College in 1999 she left to work on her thesis in the town of Viacha on Bolivia's high plain. "It was a hard experience," Claudia remembered, "I didn't like the cold weather and people did not like to talk with a woman, especially a young woman." But she worked to get the data necessary to finish her thesis and graduate from the UAC-CP.

Following graduation, Claudia found work as a technician with the government of La Paz. "Again, it wasn't easy," Claudia explained, "people in Bolivia don't like to work with young women, so I worked so hard to be respected as a veterinarian." Her work paid off. In 2001 she was promoted to coordinate and supervise 23 agricultural projects.

Though she had full-time work, she continued studying at night--English and Portuguese. It was essentially her language skills that helped her get a scholarship to study in Japan, where she received an 11 monthly training in high molecular protozoan diseases. "I loved it!" she said about her experience in Japan.

Dr. Claudia Cerruto pictured with her Biochemistry class at the UAC-CP. Together, they are holding up a sign to thank Carmen Pampa Fund's 2012 Spirit of Ayni Award recipient Ed Flahavan.

Back in Bolivia, she applied for a Fulbright Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. government, and after a grueling application process, became the first person from the country's rural area to be awarded the prestigious scholarship to study for her master's degree in the U.S.  Claudia was awarded her MS in Food Science from the Oklahoma State University. She continued studying and in 2011 Claudia received her PhD in Food Science (food microbiology).  Following graduation, she and her family (she also met her husband John and had a little girl while she was in the States) moved to Bolivia.

Currently, Claudia is back at Carmen Pampa where she teaches Thesis I and Biochemistry classes. "It's been a wonderful experience," Claudia said. "I love my students! I can see in their faces the same attitude that I had more than 15 years ago when I started just like them." Claudia strongly believes that education makes a difference and that is why, she explained, she's dedicated to teaching students at the College in Carmen Pampa.

While Claudia is happy to be able to give back to the College where she first got her start, she wants to eventually work more in her field of expertise and, to do that, she needs more training. She and her family plan to return to the U.S. within the next year so she can gain work experience in the food industry.

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