Before leaving for Costa Rica over spring break, students traveling with Jamie Picardy, Assistant Professor of Sustainability & Society and Bart Biroschak Assistant Professor and Department Chair Criminal Justice, Politics and History did their research and developed a plan for sustainability.
Their charge was to observe, engage, research and report Costa Rican advancement toward economic/political stability and sustainable development and to develop ideas for improvement, honing in on what they see are the issues for Costa Rica. They would then reflect on how findings did or did not change due to first-hand experiences within the country and conversations with Ticos (natives of Costa Rica).
When presenting on their trip, the students compared and contrasted what they had learned before going and how their opinions and thoughts had changed after spending a week in the country. They traveled from the western Pacific Coast to the central highlands and valleys, visiting coffee and pineapple plantations a fishing cooperative and learned about how the food we eat is grown.
Students developed a plan for social programs to help alleviate poverty, farming programs to increase the amount of workers in the field, to institute a military and increase biodiversity in agriculture.
The plans ranged from a food stamp program, higher wages, changes in zoning that would allow taller buildings to be erected and closer work with the government.
They learned that although there were great ideas, the town where they spent some time? Tarcoles, lacked the organizational structure to institute them.
For several students who recommended before going that a military be established, they disavowed themselves of the idea.
One felt the money spent on the military could best be repurposed to pay farmers better wages and another said the pride the culture had in not needing a military was evident and contributed to their positive attitude.
“The experience also included a community engagement component,” says Professor Picardy. “Our team spent an afternoon at a public elementary school helping to paint their playground as well as learn about their water stewardship and conservation efforts.”
Students came back with a greater appreciation of the resources taken for granted at home such as clean water and with more knowledge about how food is grown and the hard labor needed to produce the crops.
All students commented on how positive the people are. “They were focused on the present moment – I want to assign that to my life,” was one quote that got many positive nods from the audience.