Lee Burras

I lead programs because they are easy to do, they are fun to do, and they result in tremendous student learning – both professionally and personally. They are also highly valued by ISU’s leadership (President, Provost, Deans, etc) and by the students who enrolled.

Lee Burras, Professor in the Department of Agronomy has been leading study abroad programs since 2002.  Lee has led or co-led a total of 20 classes abroad while at Iowa State University including the most common one “Soils & Crops of Costa Rica”.

What programs do you lead?

  • Even though I have been leading programs since 2002, it wasn’t until 2006 when I started leading programs annually.  Other programs include, France (2002), Ecuador (2011), Uruguay (2017) and Uganda (service learning in 2006-2008; Soil Formation in 2018).  I plan to lead/co-lead three more this academic year (Uruguay over Thanksgiving Break; Uganda soils in January 2019; Costa Rica over Spring Break 2019).

Why do you lead study abroad programs?

  • I lead programs because they are easy to do, they are fun to do, and they result in tremendous student learning – both professionally and personally.  They are also highly valued by ISU’s leadership (President, Provost, Deans, etc) and by the students who enrolled. 

What have you learned by leading programs?

  • I have learned a tremendous amount of technical details about soils, agriculture, the environment, and government by leading courses.  More importantly I keep improving my knowledge of why culture and how the people’s culture of a place must be understood and respected if I want anything I know to be understood, respected and – ideally – used.  Every trip I take also thoroughly reinforces in me that 99.999% of people are smart, kind and interesting.  That applies to our students and in-country hosts, hotel staff, etc. 

What have been most memorable about leading study abroad programs?

  • The most memorable aspects of my classes have been great people, beautiful and fascinating locales (including impressive soil profiles), wonderful food, and great lodging.   Pretty much the only negatively memorable experience has to do with the stress of getting groups through TSA-type security at airports while making sure we have enough time to catch a flight and no one gets bumped --- but that stress reflects that an airport is pretty much the part of a study abroad experience where a Program Leader has the least influence on what might go on.  Obviously it is a pretty manageable stress, too.  Otherwise I wouldn’t keep leading programs. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

  • In my free time I like to travel with Lori (my wife), try interesting restaurants, read, and now and then take a fitness class. 

What advice do you have for someone interested in leading or co-leading a study abroad program?

  • First, do it!  Second, work with the CALS Study Abroad Office in setting it up. 

What advice do you have for students interested in participating in a study abroad program?

  • A student should study abroad because it will help her/him understand who she/he really is while also better informing them about what they actually know and where they are from.   As a result, their personal and professional lives gain greater perspective, which seems kind of important if someone wants to be genuinely happy.  Oh – and the student will learn a lot of technical material while also making lifelong friends and eating great food in an exotic setting. 

Aside from leading study abroad programs, Lee was recently highlighted in the most recent “Stories” for his exceptional work in the classroom, Creating the future, teaching to serve.