GEOG 237: Grass Roots Development in Nicaragua
is a required course for all participants

GEOG 200: Independent Study
is optional and can be taken in addition to the required course above.


GEOG 237: Grass Roots Development in Nicaragua

Counts towards major in: anthropology, economics, environmental studies, geography, international relations, Latin American studies, sociology, and managing for sustainability as an MSUS elective (either historical, sociocultural OR legal, political, economic).

CCC Course: Social Sciences (SSLG), Environmental Connections (EVCN), Global Connections (GBCC), Service Learning Course (SL), Engineering Social Science (EGSS), Engineering Global and Societal Perspectives (GLSP)

The overarching academic purpose is to offer students an intensive introduction to themes and issues of third world development, especially focused on the well-being of those at the lower end of the socio-economic strata. Together, academic literature/classroom type study and service-learning experiences along with excursions are intended to inform and enrich students' appreciation of the issues.

The course will present an overview of third world development issues, including different meanings of the concept of development, approaches to sectoral (health, agricultural, economic, e.g.) development, distinctions between different forms of "grass roots", participatory, and other approaches. Emphasis will be on examples in which local people have taken the initiative and created services, employment, and generated the means of livelihoods for themselves. The overriding context will be Nicaragua.

Students will engage in service learning activities in a variety of settings, with the priorities for the work stemming from the local community founders. The host community, JHC/CDCA, working closely with community leaders, will be coordinating the service efforts.

While in Nicaragua, students will keep a "directed journal" on readings and speakers following a guide calling for a brief statement of the theme, author's point of view, how does this relate to previous material, and what questions would deepen our understanding of the topic. These will be reviewed during the program. Then, a typed version (making any improvements you like) and a final essay will be due about 3 weeks after the program ends.


GEOG 200: Independent Study

ALL students have the option of signing up for this independent study.

Counts towards major in: anthropology, economics, geography, international relations, Latin American studies, sociology, or managing for sustainability (MSUS) with approval based on topic.

Students will focus on a particular development issue/question in Nicaragua and will write a paper due about 3 weeks after the end of the program. Both local materials in Nicaragua and available resources in the U.S. may be used.

Here is a sample of Independent Study topics including some selected by previous participants:

  • Nicaragua's Education System
  • Nicaraguan Health System: Public v. Private
  • Children's Health Issues
  • Markets and Foods in Nicaragua
  • Access to Clean Water in Cities and Countryside
  • Engineering for Development-Principles of Sustainability
  • Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and Health Issues (also Agricultural Production and Industrial Production)
  • Women's Rights
  • Political Parties and Power
  • Persistent Sandinistas, Persistent Struggle
  • U.S. Policy Toward Nicaragua/Nicaragua Policy Towards U.S.
  • Debt and Development Issues in Nicaragua
  • Export Agriculture vs. Local Consumption: Pros and Cons
  • Deforestation and Environmental Sustainability
  • Environmental/Economic/Other consequences of proposed Canal
  • Meeting Basic Needs in a Disaster Refugee Community
  • Rebuilding After Disaster

If you would like to pursue one of these or another topic, contact Professor Paul Susman. Topics must be approved by the instructor before the program begins.

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