Dr. Dan Spears travels to Costa Rica with Emerald Eagle Scholars

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fifteen Emerald Eagle Scholars will travel to Costa Rica from July 18 to Aug. 9 for a study abroad course about travel and green tourism.  The study, led by faculty in UNT's Department of Hospitality Management and faculty from CATIE - International Research and Education Center in Turrialba, Costa Rica, will emphasize sustainable tourism and tourism development in developing countries. This is the second time the scholars have traveled to Costa Rica. In 2009, the trip focused on a biology course concentrating on environmental sustainability and development.

This summer, the students will take a hospitality management course, Foundations of International Travel and Tourism, that will focus on tourism development .  They will examine all three pillars of sustainability: environmental, socio-cultural and economic. Broadening the focus to include these pillars will allow students to learn and see how tourism development and tourists actually affect local people and communities.

"The Emerald Eagle group had such a fantastic time last year in Costa Rica with the help of our host and partner institution CATIE, that we wanted to take students down there again, but with a different course and focus this time," says Andrea Kalan, director of the

Center for Global Learning and Experience.

Read their blog to keep up with their trip >>

Sustainable tourism

Students will work on a group project throughout the course, analyzing the effectiveness of several different Costa Rican sustainable tourism certifications by talking to certified and non-certified tourism business owners and operators throughout the country and looking at their daily practices.

Led by Dr. Daniel Spears, assistant professor of merchandising and hospitality management, and Jennifer Rogla, coordinator of international programs, the Emerald Eagle Scholars will travel to:

  • San Jose
  • Monteverde including Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
  • Finca la Bella Farm, Skywalk and Butterfly Farm
  • Arenal
  • San Ramon
  • Pejibaye
  • Santa Cruz Region
  • Talamanca Region including a boat trip up Yorkin River, a visit to  an indigenous community at Talamanca-Bribri Indigenous Territory, a visit to a cocoa farm and processing plant and a hike to Panama waterfall
  • Fahuita National Park
  • Veragua Rainforest
  • Alajuela  including a visit to Poas Volcano National Park and La Paz Waterfall Gardens
  • Coope Silencio, a farming cooperative
  • Manuel Antonio National Park

"These destinations were chosen to give the Emerald Eagle Scholars a well-rounded look at the Costa Rican landscape and culture, and compliment the curriculum on sustainable tourism," Rogla says. "Although Costa Rica is not a large country - it's slightly smaller than West Virginia - it has very diverse microclimates, cloud forests to volcanoes, and both Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The destinations were chosen to give students firsthand experience to learn how locals live and take advantage of each unique area." Cooperative effort

Rogla says, "Because of UNT's new joint  master of science degree with CATIE in the area of International Sustainable Tourism, and UNT's overall commitment to sustainability, it made sense to take advantage of this expertise within our own UNT faculty and CATIE's faculty and facilities. It is the hope that the curriculum with have a long lasting impact on the scholars, not only because of the location, but by giving them the lifelong skills to plan sustainable travel, think about the impacts of their own tourism, and spread these lessons to others they meet along the way."

All Emerald Eagle Scholars were eligible to apply to the study abroad program. More than 45 scholars applied and a committee, including the faculty leaders, interviewed and ranked the applicants. The criteria included a commitment to and an interest in sustainability, academic excellence and flexibility and adaptability.  A preference was given to those students who had not previously been on an Emerald Eagle Scholars study abroad program. About the Emerald Eagle Scholars program

The EES program is student success program that provides a path to academic success to students with limited financial resources but strong academic backgrounds. The program provides tuition and fees, mentoring and opportunities for university engagement, and students are expected to maintain solid grades and to stay on track to graduate in four years.