From the Director of the Costa Rica Program
When thinking about a political science J term course, Costa Rica was the first location to pop to mind. Costa Rica is known for its exceptionalism, and in my classes students are always interested in why Costa Rica differs so much from its neighbors. Why did Costa Rica abolish its military? Why did it establish democracy when other Central American nations were engulfed in civil war? Why are human development indicators (e.g., health and educational levels) on par with wealthy countries? How did it earn such a strong reputation for its environmentally conscious tourism industry?
I thought the best way students could answer these questions would be to travel to the country, and learn about Costa Rican political and economic development from Costa Ricans themselves. I designed the course, The Politics of Costa Rica, to allow students to probe the many facets of Costa Rican exceptionalism. To understand the different path Costa Rica has taken, students will combine their study of politics with practical experiences, visiting the electoral tribunal, human rights ombudsman, and health care clinics. To add to this practical experience, students will live with Costa Rican families, an experience that will facilitate their appreciation of both Spanish language and Costa Rican culture. This time with a host family provides students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in daily life in Costa Rica. While the J term course is only three weeks, in that time I do hope students are able to understand all the reasons why Costa Rica is exceptional, as well as whet their appetites to return and continue their studies.
Mary Fran T. Malone, Ph.D.
Department of Political Science