UTIA researchers and faculty are exploring opportunities and potential partnerships with collaborators ​in Guatemala. The Smith International Center holds the Milam Family Opportunity Endowment which provides funding for experiential international opportunities in Guatemala, for students and faculty to work on world challenges related to clean water, food resources, health and nutrition. 

Contact Dave Ader or Sara Mulville for more information.


Matthew Barnicki

Although I enjoyed every single activity of the trip, my favorite experiences were kayaking – amongst mangrove trees (full of birds) near Sipacate, and then in choppy waves along the shore of Lake Atitlan.  My favorite learning experience was the macadamia nut farm visit, where we walked amongst a pioneering farmer’s trees and saw his nut cracking and sorting setup.
Overall, it was fascinating to see Central America for the first time – particularly the great variety of native and introduced vegetation, farming of various crops at different scales, beautiful mountains and water bodies, and tiny shops along narrow streets.
To other students wishing to take this course: do not hesitate to sign up. If your experience is like mine, it will be among the best weeks of your life.  If you don’t know Spanish, learn as much as you can beforehand (something I wish I had done).  It is not necessary, but it will allow you to converse with the people you will meet.
Matthew Barnicki
Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries

Lucy Heffinger

My favorite experience while studying in Guatemala was working with Niños del Lago. Working with the kids and teaching them about the importance of nutrition was a lot of fun. It also felt like meaningful work because Guatemala faces lots of problems with malnutrition among kids, so helping them learn about good, healthy foods was really rewarding.
I would recommend that students learn at least a little bit of basic Spanish. It’s not a necessity, but it would make it a lot easier to communicate directly with some of the people you will meet instead of having to ask someone to translate for you.
Lucy Heffinger
Sophomore, Natural Resource and Environmental Economics

Legna Soto-Gonzalez

What I would say to new students taking the course is focus on the impact you want to make, whether it be with children education, soil health, food and medicinal assistance services, or production of a crop— it is wildly important to name and claim your goals before coming to the welcoming country that way you’re preparing your mind to make an influence in those areas. 
I visited a 40+yr old Macadamia Nut farm in Ciudad Vieja Antigua, Guatemala.  Not only did I eat good food but they have the cutest most floral outhouse ever !! After viewing how this farm has managed to grow Hawaiian Macadamia Nuts in Guatemala our students asked a lot of questions regarding productivity, machine input, business analytics, and more!! It was truly an experience getting to know the son of a Guatemalan woman and an American man on his success and challenges with the farm. It is about five hectares as it is now starting to get surrounded by house and city developers. Ricardo shared his passion for the land and showcased to us how he has given trees away to families and individual, in Guatemala and Nicaragua. When visiting the farm shop we got to sit for a facial as they produce more products that just nuts . Like macadamia oil! Face cream! Chocolate covered nuts and more !! If no one told you before, hear it from me… get out the country and explore what all there is to see !!
Legna Soto-Gonzalez
Junior, Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications

Spring Break 2022 Study Abroad flyer

Current Partners

  • Ke​m A’jachel​ 
  • Barbara Ford Center of Peace
  • ICC- Private Institute for Climate Change Research 
  • Health Talents International
  • ARCAS​​​

Milam Family Endowment

Woman poses in front of colorful textiles

A generous donation from a local Knoxville family has allowed for continued in Guatemala. Their hope is that the funds are used to inspire the next generation of volunteers to be passionate about Guatemala and its people.

Milam Scholars

Student working on plants in Guatemala

Each year two UTIA students are chosen through a competitive process to participate in an internship related to their major and professional interests in Guatemala. They work with one of the Smith Center’s local partners to conduct research and community outreach. Read about the Milam Scholars program. 

Study Abroad Course

Students gathering data

UTK Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Challenges in Guatemala​ is a course designed to engage students in all topics related to food, agriculture and natural resources in Guatemala. While the course is a semester-long spring course, they experience Guatemala first-hand during a Spring Break study abroad trip.