Webster Short-Term Faculty Led Program Allows Students to Explore Inequality and the Environment in Costa Rica

Webster University students take a tour of the Costa Rica Landscape.

During Webster University’s 2023 Fall Break, students embarked on an exciting study abroad journey to Costa Rica through the short-term faculty led program, "Inequality and the Environment: Coffee!” The interdisciplinary program, led by Kate Parsons, professor of philosophy and director of the Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies program, offered insights into the intersection of environmental sustainability and social justice in the coffee industry. The experience was designed to provide students with a comprehensive and practical understanding of these critical global issues.

In addition to teaching students about environmental conservation farming practices, the program delved into the economic and social dynamics of the coffee industry, emphasizing the challenges of inequality and the vital contributions of local communities. Field trips to various ecosystems provided a practical understanding of how agricultural activities impact the environment, underscoring the importance of sustainability in these practices. 

Webster students had the opportunity to experience diverse Costa Rican landscapes through a partnership conducted with the Monteverde Institute - from bustling city centers to tranquil coffee farms, and from misty cloud forests to serene mangroves. Each location provided a unique perspective to examine the multifaceted world of coffee production and its environmental impact. 

Three study abroad students smile after admiring the horizon.Three study abroad students smile after admiring the horizon.

Jack Farish, one of the program participants, shared about his experience abroad. 

"Visiting the coffee farms and interacting with the farmers was eye-opening. It changed my perspective on how interconnected our world is, and the role we can play in making a difference."  

Webster students visit a coffee bean nursery in Costa Rica.Webster students visit a coffee bean nursery in Costa Rica. 

Farish found the hands-on learning approach transformative, especially the exposure to sustainable farming practices and permaculture designs. The impact of meeting local coffee growers and learning about their environmentally conscious approaches significantly influenced his perspective on environmental issues and his career aspirations, inspiring him to pursue a path focused on nature conservation and education. 

Similarly, Katie Leeker, a film major, shared that her experiences in the program led to a profound personal and academic shift. Reflecting on her journey, she said, "I gained valuable insights and established meaningful connections. This experience inspired me to change my minor to international human rights.” 

The study abroad group poses for a picture during an outing.The study abroad group poses for a picture during an outing.

The immersive nature of the program allowed students to apply their academic knowledge in a real-world context, enhancing their understanding of global environmental issues and fostering personal growth. Students expressed a renewed commitment to sustainable practices and increased cultural sensitivity. 

Kennadyn Momeno, a management major with an emphasis in marketing, articulated her deepened understanding of the intricate relationship between local actions and global issues.  

"The experience illuminated the complexities faced by local communities and the significance of responsible consumer choices. It has profoundly shaped my perspective on individual and collective responsibilities.” 

Alexis Maly, a student with an individualized major in religious studies, shared her shift in perspective regarding consumer habits. 

"I look at my consuming habits differently now. This experience has added another dimension to how I understand my place in the world and has made me more environmentally aware." 

Study abroad students traverse through a jungle as they explore the landscape of Costa Rica.Study abroad students traverse through a jungle as they explore the landscape of Costa Rica.

Beyond academic learning and exploration of landscapes, the trip provided rich cultural immersion. Students were exposed to Costa Rican culture, food, and traditions, deepening their global awareness and appreciation for cultural diversity. 

The short-term faculty led study abroad program in Costa Rica highlights Webster University's commitment to providing students with dynamic learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom, fostering academic excellence, personal growth, and global understanding. 

Webster faculty who are interested in curating their own short-term faculty-led programs or teaching abroad have an excellent opportunity to do so through Webster’s Short-Term Faculty Led Programs and the Leif J. Sverdrup Global Teaching Fellowship. Applications for Spring/Summer 2025 proposal programs are open now with a deadline of Feb. 15, 2024.  

To gain more insights and information about these programs, interested faculty members are encouraged to RSVP to the upcoming information sessions

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