Beyond the Classroom: Business and Economics

Ecotourism and Service Learning in Costa Rica

Reading to students in Costa RicaNational and international travel is an important component to the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program at JSC. By being tourists and learning from those who are serving tourists, JSC students gain multiple perspectives on the industry, both here and abroad. HTM Professor Todd Comen leads students on a bi-annual trip to Costa Rica, where they spend half the time in the mountainous region of the country, and half the time on the coast, allowing them to see the biodiversity of the country as well as the different ways people there live. While on the coast, the group stays in a town called Matapalo.

During the most recent trip, "Maymester 2008," (between the spring and summer semester, from late May till early June) the group learned about tropical landscapes in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, visited with two of the Quakers who migrated to Monteverde in the 1950’s, hiked onto the lava field of one of the most active volcanoes in the Western Hemisphere, and spent quality time with elementary school students in their village of Matapalo. 

The experience with the children of Matapalo was organized by CEPIA, (www.cepiacostarica.org) a local nonprofit that works with at-risk and disadvantaged youth in the tourist destination around Tamarindo.  CEPIA’s founder and director presented an in-depth view of the impact of tourism on the social and economic fabric of rural communities in Costa Rica and organized a variety of activities for the JSC students and local children.  Activities included the reading of children’s stories to their new friends which had been carried by the group to Costa Rica.  The books were donated by the students and JSC staff members Tammy Goss and Julie Noyes. JSC Athletics Director Barbara Lougee, who helped Professor Comen lead the group, brought mini-T shirts with the JSC Badger label for 20 of the young people who came to learn and play with the group. 

The final day of this cross-cultural exchange featured an activity in which JSC students worked with the elementary school children in creating messages focused on environmental responsibility.  The messages were painted on wooden boards and then posted around the town green so that community members would be reminded of the importance of maintaining a clean environment.