NVC Environmental Course Gives Students Opportunity for Study Abroad

The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund has selected the Alamo Colleges District/Northwest Vista College and Costa Rica’s Universidad Veritas as one of 12 grant-winning teams to receive a $25,000 grant that will allow students to study abroad, virtually exchange cultural information, and analyze urban waterways.

Dubbed the Geography and Environmental Studies Costa Rica Adventure Science Field School, this will be a collaborative program with NVC’s Geography and Environmental Studies Department, the Alamo College’s Office of International Programs, and Universidad Veritas (San Jose, Costa Rica). These funds will help make study abroad much easier since traveling to Central America is more affordable than traditional study abroad programs in Asia or Europe.

The announcement was made March 2 by The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Embassies and Partners of the Americas. The 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund grant competition is sponsored by AgroAmerica and the U.S. Department of State.

To participate, students had to enroll in NVC’s online  ENVR 1301 Environmental Science course. They will virtually assess local environmental problems in collaboration with students in Costa Rica before traveling there to work in teams. When students go to Costa Rica in May they will participate in experiential learning and field-based activities in natural resource management.

“We are thrilled to partner with Universidad Veritas to expand our international experiential exchange program between the United States and Central America,” said Alejandra Bueno, Executive Director for International Programs for the Alamo Colleges District. “We look forward to giving our students this opportunity to work in teams to solve real-world problems and gain technical skills for workforce development.”

Dr. Scott Walker, NVC’s professor/coordinator of Geography & Environmental Studies, said just some of the learning students will experience includes working with researchers at Universidad Veritas on lagoon bird counts in San Jose, DNA sampling of sharks and rays along the Pacific Coast, census counts of crocodiles, fish, snakes and bats and measuring/tracking of sea turtles. Next year they plan to add primate studies through a Physical Anthropology class. Study abroad scholarships for 2023 will also be available through the Environmental Studies’ Microsoft Community College Undergraduate Research Experience grant.

Students will also have the opportunity to head to the Tropical Science Center’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Research Station in the Costa Rican mountains to participate in an animal footprint survey, along with a day trip to Valle Escondido Nature Reserve for a permaculture workshop. Permaculture is a design philosophy that focuses on designing human systems based on natural ecosystems.

“Our adventure science field school is a unique opportunity for students to not just learn about science, but to actually do science in the field. Between this generous grant support and associated scholarships there is no cost for the students,” Walker added. “One goal of this grant is to increase the diversity of students who can study abroad. We recruited from student affinity groups related to underserved students, such as NVC’s Black Student Union and SALUTE Veterans National Honor Society, and other Alamo Colleges’ student groups for first-time-in-college students, minority students, and LGBTQ+ students.”