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Widener partners with Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica

Costa Rica, Widener, study abroad, global learning, coffee, CARES21, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, sustainability, partnernship, 100000 Strong in the Americas, Coffee Culture, Innovation Fund

Professors Beatriz Urraca and Stephen Madigosky secured a 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund grant that establishes a partnership with Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica.

Chester, Pa. – Widener University is pleased to announce a new partnership with Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (UNA) that will allow both universities to expand global learning opportunities for students. In support of the partnership, Widener was recently awarded a 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund grant for $25,000.

Both universities have developed a strong focus on coffee production in Costa Rica, but will now combine efforts to create a cross-cultural academic exchange program that takes an experiential, service-learning approach to exploring how the agricultural and sociocultural aspects of coffee affect sustainability.

The new Coffee Culture exchange project will begin in the 2018-2019 academic year, and will include Widener students traveling to Costa Rica and UNA students traveling to Chester.

Widener students will be able to sign up for two on-campus fall semester courses that will include an online collaboration component with their peers at UNA. The class will culminate in a short-term study abroad trip to Costa Rica in January.

Students from UNA will also travel to Chester in January to attend workshops designed by Widener faculty on various aspects of sustainability and to tour coffee roasting facilities and specialty coffee shops in the area.

"The initiative of this award will allow us to provide more students with a comprehensive understanding of how their consumer decisions often have an impact on people and places a world apart," said Professor Stephen Madigosky, the chairman of Widener's Department of Environmental Science and Sustainability who secured the grant with Professor of Spanish Beatriz Urraca. "We look forward to strengthening our relationship with UNA while providing students with a global perspective on issues of environmental sustainability."

100,000 Strong in the Americas

The Widener-UNA partnership was one of nine higher education collaborations that received the prestigious Innovation Fund grant this year. The grants, sponsored by Santander Bank, were established through a public-private sector collaboration between the U.S. State Department, U.S. Embassies, Partners of the Americas, and NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

The Innovation Fund was created to inspire U.S. universities and colleges to team up with higher education institutions in Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada to build institutional partnerships to increase student exchange and training.

"Both universities are closely aligned in our values, in our commitment to community engagement, and in serving populations in underserved communities," said Beatriz Urraca, professor of Spanish and director of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at Widener. "We are excited to bridge our work across two universities and two countries."

Widener's presence in Costa Rica

Widener embarked eight years ago on a venture with educators, students, farmers and roasters to develop sustainable coffee-production markets. The efforts led to the creation of WU Brew, the university's own brand of environmentally-friendly coffee that is grown in Costa Rica and served in campus cafes and in the bookstore.

In 2015, Widener purchased a five-acre property called Consortium of Agro-ecological Research and Education for Sustainability for the 21st Century, or CARES21, about 20 miles north of San José. The facility has become a vibrant hub of learning and multidisciplinary research for faculty and students from Widener and other universities.

UNA has also been committed to working with coffee farmers and microprocessing plants from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, with the goal of preserving natural resources. UNA markets its own coffee brand, Santa Lucía.

"Widener is committed to providing every student with global experiences through a growing number of international partnerships and study abroad opportunities," said Associate Provost of Global Engagement and Dean of Students Denise Gifford. "Our newest partnership in Costa Rica will enhance students' global and environmental awareness and sense of social responsibility."

Widener University is a private, metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener comprises seven schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees. Visit the university website,