Thursday, October 15th, at 4:30
in Shankeweiler 440


A focus on research and service projects
Incredible travel experience
Integrated living/learning in a small non-touristic community
Hike jungles, climb volcanoes, see monkeys, and experience the rainforest
Practice your Spanish and experience new cultures
Small group interaction with faculty and local experts
Visits to schools, medical clinics, and conservation sites
Taught by Muhlenberg Faculty with expertise in Conservation Biology, Spanish Language and Latin American Culture, and Environmental Sociology with 10+ years of working in Latin America   


Program Description: In this interdisciplinary program, students explore solutions to the delicate problem of environmental and cultural conservation in developing countries with a focus on Costa Rica. During the spring semester, students develop projects and prepare for the two-week study/research/travel experience to Costa Rica at the end of May. This preparation includes study of the area’s ecological diversity; political, cultural and social issues; research skills; and relevant Spanish vocabulary and conversation skills. In Costa Rica, students explore a variety of habitats, live in and interact with members of a small town (Las Juntas), and conduct both community service and independent research projects. Research projects focus on the ecology, sociology, culture, and public health of the region. One of the objectives of the course is to remove the blinders of specific discipline-based learning and of our own culture to show that if we are to develop lasting solutions, we must consider the environment in relation to the people who live in it.

Students must register for one of three courses that will be held simultaneously:

EST 350 – Environmental and Cultural Conservation in Latin America. Students in this course will focus their project work on issues around environment, development, public health, women’s issues, and other socio-economic factors. A minimum of two semesters of Spanish is a pre-requisite for this course. This course can satisfy the S or D requirement, counts towards the Environmental Science Major, Environmental Studies and Public Health minors, and is an RJ Fellows course. Limited to 6 students.


BIO 276 – Field Investigations in Biology: Costa Rica. Students in this course will focus their project work on assessment of terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity including birds, plant, insects, and aquatic macro-invertebrates. Principles of Biology 1 is the pre-requisite, and familiarity with Spanish is recommended. This counts towards the Biology (Area 3) and Environmental Science Majors. Limited to 6 students.


ART 381 – Special Topics: Field Studio in Costa Rica. Students in this course will explore and respond to the human and natural environment of Las Juntas using the various media of fine art. Media can include include drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, video/film, sound, or mixed media. Preparation will include study of the history and practice of art making in Costa Rica, studio work in the student’s chosen media, and preparation for portable site-based work in the field. Studio space will be provided in Las Juntas, including digital media capability. Art made by students in the course will be exhibited in Las Juntas, and in the Center for the Arts Galleria. At least one semester of studio art or a production course in Communications is required. Familiarity with Spanish is recommended. Limited to 6 students.

Travel costs: Due to the unpredictability of airfares and other travel expenses we offer an estimate of expenses. We estimate that the cost of our program will be between $1900 and $2400. This includes airfare, housing, meals, ground transportation, park entrances and instruction. Accommodations are safe, but very basic including sleeping in schools, churches, and tents. There may be incidental expenses such as tips, gifts, snacks, beverages and other purchases but these do not usually exceed $200.00. Payments will be made in two installments during the spring semester. There are definite opportunities to obtain sponsorship to cover all expenses, please see Dr. Niesenbaum for more information

Conditions in Costa Rica: Students in both courses must be able to cope with challenging living and physical conditions including the presence of insects and other wildlife, heat (no air-conditioning), physical activity, close quarters, and other aspects of tropical field work and living.

Community Service: Students must also be committed to performing community service during the academic year in Allentown and while in Costa Rica. Examples of Community Service Projects in Costa Rica are:

• Serve a medical clinic by traveling to small villages and assisting medical staff
• Community painting and beautification projects
• Serve an elementary or high school by teaching English
• Serve an ecomuseum by updating their displays and translating material into English
• Assist a women’s recycling cooperative
• River Cleanups

Research in Costa Rica: Students develop research projects that meet the community's needs, in areas pertaining to the environment, public health, culturall preservation, economy, and sustainability. To see prior research projects encompassing these topics and more, click here.

This program is part of a collaborative project between Muhlenberg College and the Community of Las Juntas de Abangares in Costa Rica.  Our partners, Carlos Fonseca and Eliette Montoya, are committed environmentalists and are dedicated to sustainable community development and the preservation of nature, culture and history. They have more than 10 years of experience in program development in Costa Rica.  For more information about their programs see their web page at:
Costa Rican news paper celebrates the Muhlenberg-Las Juntas Partnership

Next offering: Spring semester of 2009 with a 13 day trip to Costa Rica with Professor Niesenbaum in late May. We will accept up to 12 students (6 in each course). Applications are due on or before October 24, 2008. Applications are currently available from Dr. Niesenbaum and on-line at the link below. Once accepted into the program a non-refundable $100.00 deposit will be required to register for the course.

Applications are due on October 24th!

Click here to print out an information sheet and application

For more information contact:

Richard Niesenbaum

More Questions??  Come to an information session on Thursday October 16th at 4:30 in Shankweiler 440