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UGA Costa Rica offers new, ‘holistic’ sustainability program

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UGA Costa Rica

University students in Costa Rica and Athens can learn about sustainability — while learning from the same professors.

Beginning in the spring of 2013, the UGA Costa Rica study abroad campus has a new program option: the Sustainability in Action semester, which offers a new sustainability certificate awaiting approval and collaboration between professors in both Costa Rica and Athens.

The new program is intended to draw from Richard Louv’s book The Nature Principle, which encourages colleges to create programs connecting people to nature, Matt Stevens, assistant director of UGA Costa Rica, wrote in an email to The Red & Black.

“This same inspiration drives each of UGA Costa Rica’s research initiatives or study abroad programs,” he wrote. “But particularly so with this new Sustainability in Action semester.”

The program is an international field experience with coursework intended to directly feed into the University’s Local Food Systems, Environmental Ethics, Organic Agriculture and Sustainability certificate programs.

“We investigated four increasingly popular certificate programs here at UGA and compiled a course package that’d satisfy core requirements in each of them,” Stevens wrote.

Quint Newcomer, director of UGA Costa Rica, wrote in an email that the faculty is working to blend their classes so it won’t be like a typical semester in which students go from one distinct class to another.

“The faculty will all be sharing information and collaborating such that their lectures and field activities will touch on many of the same aspects of sustainability,” he wrote. “The goal is to provide a much more holistic understanding of what is meant when we talk about ‘sustainability.’”

Audrey Thompson, a freshman business major from McDonough, said she thinks the sustainability program sounds interesting.

“I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “I would do it if that were something that was in my field.”

Newcomer wrote the SIA program is open to students of any major, but is especially good for students in the arts and humanities fields as well as sciences.

“Our real target audience is students who are interested in the certificate programs in organic agriculture, local food systems and environmental ethics and sustainability, once that is approved,” he wrote.

He wrote that this approach will challenge students to think from a systems perspective, which will serve as a valuable tool regardless of what profession they enter into.

Another distinct aspect of the program is a joint-classroom course, Global Climate Change, ECOL 2100.

Stevens wrote that students enrolled in Athens will be connected to students at the San Luis campus in Costa Rica via live, interactive technology.

“That course will be co-taught by Drs. Jacqueline Mohan and Jim Porter — one in Athens, the other in San Luis de Monteverde,” he wrote.

Thompson said the virtual class connection is a innovative idea.

“I think it sounds beneficial,” she said. “It is a cool program.”

The semester also features a 10-day intensive global information systems mapping project.

Stevens wrote that over the last four years, University students have planted roughly 25,000 trees throughout the Pájaro Campana Biological Corridor, which is the location of University’s Costa Rican campus.

“One of the SIA program’s field labs will be to use technology to begin mapping those trees as a means to share our efforts and data with the Costa Rican government,” he wrote.

Stevens said this will further UGA Costa Rica’s ongoing Carbon Offset Program in addition to giving students experience working on an hands-on field project.

To apply for the program, students need to review the courses offered, consult their academic advisers and apply online at by the end of October.

“The SIA program is the result of [Newcomer’s] dream,” Stevens wrote. “And thankfully, the various deans and upper administration likewise thought that it was a timely and worthwhile idea. Really, really cool stuff.”

Source: Red and Black

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