In addition to working on my research and teaching courses on campus at Adams State College (ASC), I co-lead a study abroad program each summer to Nicaragua with Professor Matias Fontenla from the Economics Department at the University of New Mexico (UNM). Every year, at the end of the spring semester, we take a group of UNM and ASC students to Nicaragua in order to study sustainable development. We spend a month on the ground, visiting, among other sites: microfinance beneficiaries in poor neighborhoods of Managua, coffee cooperatives in the cloud forests of the north and alternative energy sources in small Afro-Caribbean villages peppered along the Atlantic coast. The hope and promise of our program is to provide students with a hands-on understanding of perhaps the most monumental task of our time: to promote development while preserving the world as we know for future generations. In many ways, Nicaragua is an ideal country for this task. On the one hand, Nicaragua finds itself at the same crossroads between a feudal past and an industrialized future that England encountered at the time of Adam Smith’s brilliant analysis of the division of labour in 1776. However, unlike England and the rest of Western Europe, Nicaragua is faced with the same post-industrial double edged sword that bears down upon all developing countries around the world. Put simply, Nicaragua has both the benefit of developing in a world economy that is constantly diffusing technological solutions to developing nations and yet at the same time, as a country they are forced to compete with nations operating at the frontier of technological advancement.
Given this, our main goal in taking students each year to Nicaragua is to reveal the aforementioned reality from the ground up. Put simply, our program provides our students with the opportunity to confront the realities of globalization in person. We purposefully take students to social settings that force them to question their daily habits and we do so because it is our hope that these images will incite them to participate in the innovation of sustainable solutions for this generation and those that follow. As educators, it is our belief that sustainable development should be at that core of all course, across disciplines, because at the end of the day, the problems that sustainable development must confront are global in nature and extend beyond the realm of economics and sociology and into the realms of physics, chemistry, psychology, education, history, communication and the list goes on. In the space that follows I provide a series of photos and links related to our program.