Global Seminar Spotlight: Vilma Montenegro
This is a continuation of our "IANR is Global" series, which highlights the many ways internationalization is woven through the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources: through research collaboration, government and private industry partnerships, extension work, student educational experiences and the IANR community from around the world.
This edition is specifically focused on the many global voices we have or have invited to campus who will be sharing their expertise through seminars during spring semester 2021. Vilma Montenegro is a master’s student in the Department of Entomology and will be sharing a seminar entitled “Research Challenges in Latin America: A Forensic Entomology Perspective” as part of the Department of Entomology spring seminar series. We appreciate the expertise we are fortunate to have from all over the world, as shown by their many and varied contributions to the work of the university and our continued mission to create a globally engaged institution. To this end, we want to help our campus community get to know each other (and the world) more, starting with these experts.
Where is home for you? Where did you receive your education?
I am from a small town in Guatemala, but I graduated from college in Zamorano University, in Honduras.
Tell us a little about your path to where you are now.
I went to college in 2015 when I got a partial scholarship to study in Zamorano University, in Honduras. I left home and started a journey by myself. It was complicated being far away from my family, especially since I was only 15 years old, and I already had to start this important part of my life. During my time in Zamorano, my interests were related to animal sciences, until I had the chance to learn about insects; that was the time I fell in love with entomology. My first experiences with entomology were in the entomological collection of Zamorano, this is the second largest insect collection in Central America. There, I was able to learn the basics of curation, monitoring of insects and taxonomy. Also, I conducted my first research study which was focused in forensic entomology. After graduating in December of 2018, I decided that I wanted to do a master's degree in entomology. Therefore, I started by doing an internship in University of Nebraska-Lincoln in March 2019. A few months later, I had the opportunity to start my masters in entomology, by working with a recently discovered pest of soybean.
My interest in entomology is related to flies. During my masters I have gathered knowledge in pest management and the strategies I need to conduct research. Also, it has been really challenging and exciting to be working with a recently discovered pest, it feels like been a pioneer, which is very exciting…but also difficult sometimes. After I graduate next December, I expect to focus in medical entomology. I want to learn more about vector borne diseases, and at some point, I want to be able to educate and help communities fight diseases transmitted by insects.
I started in Agronomy, later I discovered a passion for forensic entomology and right now I am hoping to focus on medical entomology…It has been an interesting journey, integrating different sciences and trying new things. And I do not regret at all! Because everything I have learned, I have enjoyed it, and I might be using it in the future.
What is something people don't know (or that you wish they knew) about where you're from or where you do your international work?
I am one of very few people from my town that has been able to get an undergrad degree. We are a very small town in a developing country, and very few of us has had the chance to get a good education. But I am very proud of where I come from, and thankful that my parents gave me the chance to go to school.
Why is it important for institutions like the University of Nebraska to create opportunities to hear from people w ith diverse, global experiences?
I think it is important to appreciate all the diversity of people we have in UNL. I graduated from a multicultural college, with teachers and students coming from at least 20 different countries, and I am definitely grateful for everything I learned from them. I think that diversity and our Pan-Americanism in that college played an important role on my education, and I wish I could show that to other universities.
What is one piece of advice you would share with students, especially those interested in an international career?
I always try to motivate students to “go see the world”. I think traveling, thinking out of the box, meeting people are important factors for our personal and professional growth. Leaving our country is scary and I get it, but there is so much to see and learn!
Be sure to tune into Vilma’s seminar at 11:00 a.m. CST on Friday, February 26.
Are you giving a seminar in spring 2021 (or the future) and have an international element to your work, studies or experiences you'd like to see highlighted? Contact Brianne at firstname.lastname@example.org.