In the fall semester, students carry out a one-week community engagement project while placed with a partner organization. Students are given several options (subject to change each semester) of partner organizations with which the Costa Rica Center has a relationship and for projects that the organizations have defined as a need. Not only do students learn about the organization and the related project, but they also explore and practice important ethical issues surrounding community engagement.
During the spring semester, students design, plan, and document a two-week field research project in Costa Rica (or approved alternative) as part of the Introduction to Field Research course. The goal of this two-week experience is to put fieldwork methods into practice, to examine theory in practice, and to explore areas of academic interests as well as identify new ones. In the past, students have carried out their field study in local indigenous and non-indigenous communities, non-governmental and governmental organizations, universities, and schools, and with local experts on a specific academic area of research. Topics vary, but in the past have included: sustainable agriculture, education, human rights, indigenous culture, women’s rights, environmental conservation, global economic systems, alternative energy, LGBTQ identities, and more. Students will be provided information on the different field research options with one of the Costa Rica Center’s partner organizations.
Below we include a few of the partner organizations our students have collaborated with.
Boruca Indigenous Community
• Boruca is an indigenous community of the Brunca ethnic group. During colonial times the Bruncas were enslaved by the Spaniards and their culture became seriously endangered. Over the last 20 years the Brunca people have made a conscious and consistent effort to regain their culture and traditions. Today they are known for their beautiful masks and naturally dyed and traditionally woven bags.
• Students who collaborate in this project have worked in the community’s Museo de Cultura (Museum of Culture) and in the construction of more classrooms at the local high school.
Fundación Humanitaria Costarricense
• The Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation (CRHF) is a non-profit organization committed to developing creative and economical solutions to a wide range of social problems in Costa Rica. The CRHF provides opportunities to exchange friendship, goods, services, and financial resources for critical needs among different cultures, socio-economic classes, and language groups. The vision of CRHF is to create a better quality of life for all those who they work with, supporting at-risk and special needs populations so they may have more choices for their future and fostering greater sensitivity in populations providing services.
• Many of our students have worked with their projects in La Carpio, an underserved community located in the northeast part of San José. CRHF has many different social projects in La Carpio which allows for students that are interested in working with children, youth, women and other social groups to help with existing projects as well as implement new ideas and initiatives.
• Past student experiences in La Carpio have included: working with children at the after-school Day Care Center, working with women’s groups at the community center, helping to improve the infrastructure of the community, fundraising and building a community park, among other community generated initiatives.
Guarumo Organic Farm
• Proyecto Orgánico Guarumo is an independent project that aims to use land in a sustainable way and to promote a healthy lifestyle. It is an organic farm that produces a wide array of roots and vegetables as well as organic coffee for exportation.
• At Guarumo Organic Farm, students learn organic farming techniques for coffee plantations, vegetable gardens, and composts.
New Dawn Center
• The New Dawn Center is an herb farm and educational center founded in 1987 and located in the foothills of the Talamanca mountains near San Isidro del General. Ed Bernhardt and Jessica Benavides run the center (which is also their home) where they grow their own vegetables and fruits using permaculture practices and offer courses on different topics related to sustainable and healthy living. Ed is the author of different books on organic gardening and natural health care practices.
• Students who have visited the New Dawn Center in the past have worked on a variety of projects, including building a bio-sand filter to purify water for rural areas, planting native tree species to give away to local land owners, working as volunteers at the local recycling center, and making a video on gardening as a teaching aid for food security programs.