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Undergraduate Research Abroad Increases Impact, Creates Opportunities

SCU Study Abroad recognizes how impactive research intensive programs can be. Read below about our collaboration with academic departments to provide these opportunities and one student's reflections on her research program in Costa Rica.

Awareness of AAC&U's high-impact educational practices has guided much of SCU's strategy and practice in curricular and co-curricular efforts. Study Abroad is considered one of these high impact practices and, when combined with SCU's strategic priority of global engagement and understanding, we determined that we should increase availability and awareness of SCU Study Abroad programs that include other high impact practices.

One of the most exciting of these combinations of high impact practices are SCU Study Abroad programs that include undergraduate research. A couple of these are led by SCU faculty and many more are available in quarter, semester, or year-long programs that provide intensive opportunities for students to develop and conduct research. Undergraduates in all academic areas have study abroad opportunities that include intensive research projects.

These programs are particularly powerful ways for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields to derive additional benefits from participation in SCU Study Abroad. As we have worked to develop lists of highlighted programs for undergraduate majors and minors we have included details on undergraduate research opportunities and other high impact practices that are available on SCU Study Abroad. We expect that this close collaboration with academic departments will lead more students to these powerful programs that combine global learning with undergraduate research.

The story below illustrates how a research intensive study abroad program has propelled one student's commitment to research and led to her first opportunity to present her findings at an international conference.

SCU Study Abroad story and photos from Allison McNamara

Studying abroad in Costa Rica has both changed and shaped my life. I always had a passion for animals and knew that I wanted to make a career out of studying them, but I had no idea how serious I was about this dream until my first trip down to Costa Rica. I took the Costa Rica field course during the summer between my freshman and sophomore year. During this three week course, students take two upper division classes and devise and conduct their own field study project. I decided to study social interactions between white-faced capuchin monkeys. Rising every morning with the sun and spending entire days with the troop of monkeys proved to be the most fun I had ever had. The forest is not only beautiful and pristine, but the amount of wildlife one can encounter on any given day is amazing. I saw countless tropical species each day including three different species of monkeys, several species of snakes, countless exotic birds, sloths, tayras, insects, armadillos, and much more. Besides unbelievable encounters with nature, I also shared valuable experiences with the Costa Rican children of the local pueblo. Each year, we bring down coloring books, toys, and shoes for the children and spend a day or two playing soccer with them and showing them around the forest.

 

McNamara Costa Rica 1

 

I enjoyed my first summer in Costa Rica so much, I decided to apply for funding and return the following summer for two months. Once again, I conducted a research project with the help of Dr. Michelle Bezanson, this time on positional behavior of the capuchins. This opportunity allowed my research team and myself to collect over 150 hours of data. We used this to make a presentation for the American Association of Physical Anthropology meeting in Calgary, Canada. The connections and experiences I gained in Costa Rica and Canada have reassured me of my dream to attend graduate school and attain a PhD. in primatology and have made it very realistic. Without the SCU Study Abroad program in Costa Rica this would not have been possible.

 

McNamara Costa Rica 2

 

 

Posted on 6/9/2014.

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