Thursday, October 15th, at 4:30
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Sustainability StudiesSustainability StudiesBiology Department Faculty


SUS 350 (MILA): Community Sustainability in Costa Rica, Muhlenberg College – Spring 2015

In this interdisciplinary course, students explore sustainable problems, solutions, and responses in the rural Costa Rican Community of Las Juntas, 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 community experience in Allentown. 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 must integrate at least two aspects of sustainability including the ecology and biodiversity, environmental issues, economic development, social justice, culture, and/or public health of the community. One of the objectives of the program is to remove the blinders of specific discipline-based learning and of our own culture to show that if we are to develop humane relationships and lasting solutions, we must consider the environment in relation to the people who live in it.  This course can satisfy the S(SC) or D(DE) requirement, counts as an elective (but not an Area 3 course) in the Biology and/or Environmental Science Major, Environmental Studies and Public Health minors, and is an RJ Fellows course. 

Sustainability StudiesBiology Department FacultyBiology Department FacultyBiology Department FacultyBiology Department FacultyBiology Department FacultySustainability StudiesSustainability Studies



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   

Sustainability Studies

Program Information

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 $2500. 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 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.

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:
Biology Department Faculty
Costa Rican news paper celebrates the Muhlenberg-Las Juntas Partnership

Next offering: Spring semester of 2015 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, 2014. 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!


Biology Department Faculty

For more information contact:
Biology Department Faculty

Richard Niesenbaum

Biology Department FacultySustainability Studies

Sustainability Studies