Explore Sustainable Development in Nicaragua

November 18, 2013

In Spring-Summer 2014, Dr. Matías Fontenla, Associate Professor in the UNM Department of Economics and faculty affiliate with the LAII, will once again lead a group of students abroad as part of a course on "Sustainable Development in Nicaragua." Students interested in participating should apply by December 6, 2013, for priority consideration.

The program explores the economics of development in Nicaragua, the poorest Spanish-speaking country in the Western Hemisphere. Nicaragua is a country blessed with majestic landscapes, beautiful beaches, quaint colonial cities, and an abundance of natural resources. Yet, throughout its history, the country has suffered severe underdevelopment. This paradox provides a fitting point of departure for the program, which explores sustainable solutions to failed development in Central America. The course focuses on the three main aspects of economic development: income, education, and health. Students also explore the social, economic and political variables that underpin poverty and deep social inequalities in the country; and most importantly, they explore solutions to these problems.

The class initially meets on the UNM campus six times in March and April. These meetings lay the foundations for the course, with Fontenla developing the theoretical framework of Economic Development, reviewing assigned readings, and covering trip logistics.

Immediately after the end of the Spring semester, the group will travel to Nicaragua for hands-on experience in development. Students will visit and work in coffee plantations deep in the northern Nicaraguan mountains, housing projects, microfinance organizations, urban slums, medical outposts, hospitals, and rural schools. Participants will talk to and hear from local leaders, community organizers, Nicaraguan scholars, and International Aid Agencies, among others. In addition, students will also go to the Caribbean coast, where they will have the chance to compare and contrast Nicaragua's dominant mestizo culture with the country's often forgotten, Creole-speaking Afro and native populations located on the Atlantic coast.

As one former student remarked, "In no way will I ever be able to explain to my family and friends exactly what I felt while in Nicaragua. It is something a person must experience first-hand in order to get a clear picture. Studying sustainable development in Nicaragua was both life-changing and enlightening."

There are special scholarships available for funding, and standard scholarships qualify for tuition. Knowledge of Spanish is not required. Students do not need to be Econ majors to apply, but having taken Econ classes will be beneficial. Volunteering opportunities will also be available.

To see a slideshow of recent student participants, read the course syllabus, and access the application form (among other resources), see the course website. For questions and comments, contact Fontenla (fontenla@unm.edu).