November 14, 2010

Graduate Student Killed in Nicaragua

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Ryan Crowder grad was killed in Nicaragua on Saturday night, the University announced Monday. Crowder, who was seeking a master’s degree in natural resources, had been working in the Central American country since May trying to help a group of small fisheries and their surrounding community. The exact details regarding his death remained unclear late Monday night, but “violence was involved,” according to an e-mail from Prof. Marianne Krasny, chair of the natural resources department.

Crowder was killed in Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, President David Skorton said in a statement Monday night.

Crowder was a student with a varied background — listing kickboxing and car repair among his many experiences and previous jobs — and a passion for international development.

“This was a guy who took life in great big bites,” said Prof. James Lassoie, natural resources, who helped oversee Crowder’s graduate studies. “He really was totally charged about committing his life to helping people in less developed parts of the world.”

Crowder’s research focused on fisheries in a “very remote community on the coast of Nicaragua,” Lassoie said.

His study included two parts. Crowder first wanted to improve fisheries by increasing the number of fish they caught and ensuring the sustainability of their operations. He also worked with women in the fisheries’ community to create a cooperative that could directly sell the fish to local markets.

“These aren’t big fisheries. These are people going out in small boats,” Lassoie said.

“[Crowder] cared deeply about international development, and particularly for the lobstermen of the Moskito coast,” Skorton said in the statement.

The graduate student’s death was probably not linked to his research, Lassoie said.

“It’s a lot easier to make people going missing” in the remote locations in which Crowder worked, rather than in Managua where he was killed, added Lassoie.

Crowder was no stranger to Nicaragua or the city of Managua. He had previously lived in the city and still knew people there. He was in Managua on Saturday to visit friends and family, Lassoie said.

When students study abroad, there is “always a real concern about safety,” Lassoie said. “[Crowder] was probably the one guy I never worried about because he was experienced and spoke Spanish. He knew Nicaragua. He knew Managua.”

Crowder was in Nicaragua to work on his second master’s degree. He had already earned one from Cornell in community and rural development, according to the webpage of Cornell’s Latin American Students Program Graduate Initiative Award, which Crowder won in February.

“[Crowder’s] passion is to [work] on the frontier of melding natural and social sciences to improve marginalized people’s well-being and protect important natural areas and corresponding resources,” the webpage says.

Crowder began his second master’s degree last year and planned to use it as a basis for future Ph.D. research, Lassoie said. He began work in Nicaragua early this summer and expected to stay in the country until the end of the semester.

Professors and students remembered Crowder on Monday as a person who loved life and loved his work.

“He was a really enthusiastic guy. He really had a passion for what he did and showed that to everyone around him,” said Kayla Jacobs ’13, who had Crowder as a teaching assistant for Natural Resources 1101: Introduction to the Science and Management of Environmental and Natural Resources.

Prof. Krasny, the natural resources department chair, said the community should pause to remember Crowder’s “lust for life, his passion for graduate work and the colleagues around him, and his deep personal commitment to helping people from all walks of life.”

Crowder’s death has “really been devastating news for his friends and colleagues in the department,” Lassoie said. “He was quick to endear himself to lots of different people.”

“His non-stop enthusiasm and spirit were heartening and inspiring to those of us who knew him as a student, a teacher and a friend,” Krasny said. “May we all have a life so well lived.”

A community support meeting for faculty, staff and students will take place Tuesday evening at 5 p.m. in 304 Fernow Hall. Plans for a memorial service are being made in consultation with Crowder’s family, according to the University.

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Original Author: Michael Linhorst