July 25, 2011
Lees-McRae awarded mini-grant from Mellon Foundation for study abroad opportunities

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Lees-McRae College an Appalachian College Association 2011 Faculty-Led Mini-Grant to support Spanish curriculum and International Business curriculum by helping to financially support study abroad opportunities for students in Costa Rica.

"Our core curriculum has a global citizenship thread, and almost all of our 22 academic programs have at least one course that focuses on global education themes. However, we have no solidified travel abroad program in a Spanish-speaking country at this time," said Trudy Morlino, assistant professor of business and co-author of the grant proposal. "It should be noted that Spanish is the only foreign language offered at Lees-McRae College, which is part of the reason a study abroad program in Costa Rica is of importance for educational programming."

According to the proposal submitted by professors Rachel Chrane and Trudy Morlino, co-authors of the grant proposal, Costa Rica is the ideal location for an interdisciplinary trip because it offers something unique for all disciplines.

For example, International Business students would benefit from learning about ecotourism from its founder, as well as international trade practices from this politically and financially stable country.

Wildlife Biology students benefit from studying the flora and fauna of a country that has more than 190 protected biological reserves, wildlife refuges, national parks, and other protected areas. On longer stays they can also participate in sustainable-development projects on a tropical farm and research center at E.A.R.T.H. University.

International Studies, History and Criminal Justice students gain insight into a neutral country that has had no army since 1949. On longer stays they can dig deeper in international peace studies at the United Nation's University for Peace near San José.

Education students benefit from service-learning projects in elementary schools in the country with the highest literacy rate of Central America. During longer stays, they can also participate in internships and do a portion of their student-teaching in Costa Rica.

Performing Arts students have multiple opportunities for attending performances, and if going for a longer stay, opportunities for participating in theatrical events.

Psychology and Sociology students gain understanding about the effect of living "la pura vida" from inhabitants of Costa Rica, one of the world's "blue zones", thus named for the longevity and the happiness of its inhabitants.

Spanish students benefit from speaking Spanish with native speakers in a country that is known for its clear, unclouded accent. On longer stays in a total-immersion environment, they can become fluent in Spanish while in Costa Rica.

"We hope to increase awareness across the Less-McRae campus of the opportunities available for our students to study outside of the United States in order to broaden their horizons, increase their cultural awareness, and to heighten their awareness as global citizens," said Morlino. "Rachel and I are encouraging all departments on our campus to become involved in the Costa Rica trip."

According to the Mellon Foundation website, all grants made by the Liberal Arts Colleges Program[of the Mellon Foundation] result from invitations issued by the Foundation to institutions and organizations with which staff have engaged in preliminary exchanges. Uninvited proposals are not considered. Fundamental among these criteria [for selection] is a preponderant institutional commitment to a broad liberal education, as opposed to pre-professional training. In general, the program's grants are aimed at providing additional research and professional opportunities for faculty members … and assisting colleges as they review and refurbish their curricular offerings.

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