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ACM Costa Rica Programs Studies in Latin American Culture & Society & Tropical Field Research

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  1. ACM Costa Rica ProgramsStudies in Latin American Culture & Society&Tropical Field Research Eliza Willis, Ph.D. Director

  2. Map of Costa Rica

  3. Costa Rica’s Biodiversity Photographs courtesy of Jodi Gaiser

  4. Species & Genetic Diversity Source: Vilma Obando Acuña, Biodiversidad en Costa Rica: estado del conocimiento y gestión, Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, Santo Domingo de Heredia, 2002, p.14

  5. Geographic Complexity

  6. Volcanic Structures • 290 volcanic structures identified • 20 fully formed volcanic cones Source: Guillermo Alvarado Induni, Volcanes de Costa Rica, EUNED, San José, 2000, p.1

  7. Studies in Latin AmericanCulture & Society Fall 2003

  8. Dates: August 23 – December 5, 2003 Enrollment: 25-30 students Eligibility: Sophomores, juniors and seniors with at least two years of college Spanish or its equivalent. Credit and Grades: Recommended credit is 16 semester hours or the equivalent. Students should consult with their campus program advisor or off-campus studies officer for their college’s credit and grading policies for this program. Academic Year Program: Students may apply for the entire academic year, since the fall program provides excellent preparation for the spring program, Tropical Field Research, in which students conduct independent research on topics in the social sciences, humanities and natural sciences.

  9. Orientation and Field Trips Cultural orientation is stressed in lectures and discussions on topics such as social conditions in Latin America, cultural stereotypes and the problems of living abroad. Throughout the semester, the academic program is complemented by field trips which allow students to explore the diverse human and physical geography of the country. Photo courtesy of Jodi Gaiser

  10. Spanish Grammar, Conversation and Culture Instruction at the ACM center is provided by experienced Costa Rican teachers working under the direction of Eduardo Estevanovich. Instructors rotate among small classes to expose students to several native speakers. Classes meet 17½ hours a week during the first five weeks of the semester and focus on comprehension and conversation, Costa Rican idioms and grammar review. (required, 4 credits)

  11. Core Course Students choose between two courses, taught by local experts, that deal with contemporary issues in economics, politics, society and conservation. Recent course titles have included: “Costa Rican Democracy: Strengths and Contemporary Issues,” “Modernity and Development in Urban Costa Rica,” “Neotropical Biodiversity and Conservation” and “Gender and Power in Central America: An Inquiry into Politics, Economics, Culture and Everyday Life.”

  12. As a central part of the course, during weeks 8-15, students undertake a major independent study project. Although classes are held in Spanish whenever possible, papers and conferences with instructors may be in either Spanish or English, depending on the student’s preference. (required, 6 credits)

  13. Introduction to Costa Rica This overview of modern Costa Rica features discussions of geography, history, religion, social life and ethnicity. Readings are drawn from literature, and from the social and natural sciences. Taught in Spanish, the course includes field work in San José and incorporates the rural stay. (required, 3 credits)

  14. Rural Stay Part way through the program, students leave San José and go to live with rural families for two weeks. This time in outlying areas leads students to rely entirely on Spanish and allows them to explore urban and rural contrasts. Student journals and interviews provide the basis for an oral report in the Introduction to Costa Rica course.

  15. Independent Study Project On returning from the rural stay, students undertake a major research project related to a theme of the Core Course. The project may include field investigation, library research and interviews in San José. Students generally write their research papers in English. Past projects have included studies of the status and rights of women in Costa Rican society, the potential for eco-tourism and the results of the Arias peace plan.

  16. Language Electives (choose one) Literature of Latin America This course introduces students to the contemporary literature of the region. Class work includes analysis of poetry, fiction and drama. Readings are all in Spanish. Costa Rican authors meet with the class to discuss their work. (3 credits) Advanced Composition in Spanish This course focuses on improving students’ writing skills through emphasizing good exposition, grammar review and the development of an effective style. (3 credits) Advanced Conversation in Spanish The emphasis of this course is on attaining greater fluency through work on pronunciation, vocabulary development and conversational skills. (3 credits)

  17. Tropical Field Research Spring 2003

  18. Dates: January 25 – May 16, 2003 Enrollment: 25-27 students Eligibility: Juniors and seniors with prior course work in the proposed research discipline and at least one year of college Spanish (two years strongly recommended). Students in a rural hospital Preference is given to students with strong backgrounds in Spanish and good preparation in the discipline in which they propose to work. Familiarity with statistics and field work methodology is strongly recommended. Sophomores are sometimes accepted

  19. Credit and Grades: Recommended credit is 16 semester hours or the equivalent. (Language Study, 4 credits; Field Research, 8 credits; Research Seminar and Paper, 4 credits). Students should consult the campus program advisor or off-campus studies officer for their college’s credit and grading policies for this program. The amount and distribution of credit should be determined in advance. Academic Year Program: ACM’s fall Costa Rica program, Studies in Latin American Culture and Society, provides excellent preparation for the spring research projects. Some students complete a full year in Costa Rica by attending both programs.

  20. Orientation, Language and Culture During the four-week orientation in San José, students prepare their research proposals and take an intensive course combining study of the Spanish language and Costa Rican culture. Language study continues during the final four weeks of the semester. In the first week of the semester, the students discuss with the program director and the academic advisors possible research options. The director selects advisors for the students with similar interests and expertise in the specific fields of interest. Student and advisor then write a detailed research proposal. Advisors counsel students on methodology and on the practical problems of operating in the field. They also help identify useful resources. A visit to the field site with the advisor precedes field work.

  21. Field Research Choosing a research topic can be a complicated process. Students are asked to write about their research interests in their applications, but should be aware that the field project they actually do in Costa Rica depends on the expertise and availability of faculty and advisors. Students spend March and April in the field and are strongly encouraged to find research sites outside San José. A month-long period in the city concludes the semester. During that time, students complete their research papers in consultation with their advisors and formally present the results to the group.

  22. NATURAL SCIENCES The ecosystems of the tropics are among the most diverse and complex in the world. Research topics in tropical biology and ecology range from regeneration of subalpine vegetation in mountain regions to habitats of wildlife species. Students may pursue topics in environmental chemistry, entomology, marine biology, botany, herpetology or ornithology. Geology projects may include studies of Costa Rica’s several active volcanoes.

  23. SOCIAL SCIENCES In economics, students can explore such topics as sustainable development, eco-tourism or debt-for-nature swaps. Social ecology students might focus on land use in the Osa peninsula, diversification on small farms or deforestation. Political science students can study voting patterns, the dynamics of municipal government or development of forest legislation. Sociology projects might examine family planning, the changing roles of women or educational patterns. Public health projects might focus on water pollution or on the cost and availability of health care in rural areas.

  24. Guayabo National Monument Photographs courtesy of Matthew Watson ARCHAEOLOGY AND CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY Field work at pre-Columbian sites, carried out in cooperation with the National Museum of Costa Rica, includes survey and mapping techniques, excavation and data recording procedures, and laboratory analysis. Students interested in cultural anthropology might work in rural areas on topics such as the impact of tourism on the culture of the Bri Bri.

  25. José León Sánchez, an internationally recognized Costa Rican author LITERATURE AND THE ARTS Projects might include the study of feminist poets or an analysis of local craft traditions.

  26. Past Research Projects Archaeological excavationsScarlet macaw chick developmentAcidic precipitation at Poás VolcanoPrimates in the Osa PeninsulaPoetry by Costa Rican womenContamination of river waterCosta Rican Bilingual Education PlanReproductive behavior of damselfishEffects of tourism on the ceramics industryEffectiveness of government health programsEthnobotanical study of traditional medicinal plant usageGovernment agricultural development policies and the small farmerDevelopment, globalization and the life story of a rural Costa Rican woman

  27. Program Alumni Anne Becher (Carleton) was a student in 1985. She received her M.A. in Hispanic Linguistics from the University of Colorado, where she is currently a Spanish professor. She is co-author of the popular guide book The New Key to Costa Rica and co-editor of a bilingual literary magazine Selvática. She writes reference books for publisher ABC-Clio. Christopher Vaughan (Grinnell) participated in the ACM program in 1969. He later returned to Costa Rica as a professor of the Universidad Nacional and has advised ACM students for many years. He has written widely on different areas of wildlife conservation in Costa Rica. Peggy Barlett (Grinnell) was a student on the ACM program in 1968. Her research focused on rural health. She is currently an Anthropology professor at Emory University, with a Ph.D. From Columbia University. She is the author of several books focusing on different aspects of rural life. Warren Johnson (Oberlin) participated in the ACM program in 1982; his research focused on small terrestrial rodents. Dr. Johnson went on to receive his Ph.D. in Animal Ecology from Iowa State University. He currently works with the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity of the National Cancer Institute.

  28. Living with a Costa Rican Family • Both the spring and the fall programs involve living with a host family. This is perhaps the most popular aspect of the programs. • The ACM maintains a very close relationship with its host families.

  29. Access to Sports, Recreational and Library Facilities at the University of Costa Rica • Students have access to the university’s sports facilities (gymnasium, pool, basketball courts) • Students can join university clubs and teams (chess, outdoor activities, basketball, tennis) • The ACM promotes interaction with university students by coordinating visits to English classes • Students receive orientation to facilitate their bibliographical research in the university’s library system.

  30. Program Staff Photos taken by Jessica Haugsland Presentation design by Judith Magnan

  31. Associated Colleges of the Midwest Phone: 312-263-5000 E-mail: Web: