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      Costa Rica Partnership

      Widener Partners With Universidad Nacional De Costa Rica, Receives $25K Grant

      Coffee Culture

      Widener nursing alumna Ritamarie Smedile ‘09 learns about coffee production during a 10-day trip to Costa Rica.

      Widener University is partnering with Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (UNA) to expand global learning opportunities for students from both universities.

      In support of the new partnership, Professor Stephen Madigosky, chairman of Widener’s Department of Environmental Science and Sustainability, and Professor of Spanish Beatriz Urraca, director of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, secured a 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund grant for $25,000.

      The grant, sponsored by Santander Bank, was 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. Widener and UNA are one of nine higher education collaborations to receive the grant this year.

      “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,” Madigosky said. “We look forward to strengthening our relationship with UNA while providing students with a global perspective on issues of environmental sustainability."

      Both universities have developed a strong focus on coffee production in Costa Rica, but will combine efforts to create a cross-cultural academic exchange program, called Coffee Culture, beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year. As part of the exchange, Widener students will travel to Costa Rica and UNA students will visit Chester.

      “Both universities are closely aligned in our values, in our commitment to community engagement, and in serving populations in underserved communities,” Urraca said. “We are excited to bridge our work across two universities and two countries.”

      To learn more about the new partnership, read the full press release.

      100,000 Strong in the Americas

      100,000 Strong in the Americas

      Professors Stephen Madigosky and Beatriz Urraca secured a $25,000 grant to support global learning experiences for students at Widener University and Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica.

      Coffee Culture and the Environment in Costa Rica

      Widener’s commitment to sustainable coffee stretches back eight years. The university serves WU Brew, its own brand of environmentally-friendly Costa Rican coffee, on campus and owns the Consortium of Agro-ecological Research and Education for Sustainability for the 21st Century (CARES21), a five-acre property about 20 miles north of San José.

      In May, Madigosky and Urraca accompanied undergraduate and graduate students, as well as an alumna, to Costa Rica for 10 days. The trip was the culmination of an interdisciplinary course, called Coffee Culture and the Environment in Costa Rica, taught by the two professors in the spring.

      Bringing to life the humanities and sciences, the group got to meet coffee growers, learn about the unique role the beverage plays in Costa Rican culture, participate in the coffee production process at every step, and connect with UNA students.

      Laya Manoj, a senior biology major and biochemistry minor, said the course and accompanying study abroad trip made her re-think the way she purchases and drinks coffee at home.

      “I used to buy Trader Joe’s coffee that was already roasted and ground or even just K-Cups, but the class taught me to appreciate buying organic, fair-trade coffee,” Manoj said.

      Senior Rebecca Hayes, a nursing major and Spanish minor, agreed.

      “It gives you a new perspective once you have shaken hands with the person who grew the coffee you are drinking,” Hayes said. “I know exactly where the coffee came from and what chemicals or pesticides were used.”

      Widener nursing alumna Ritamarie Smedile ‘09 also joined the group. Ten years ago, Smedile went on her first study abroad trip with Urraca to Buenos Aires, Argentina for Alternative Spring Break.

      “Being in a different environment and culture cracked open this world for me that I haven’t been able to get enough of since,” Smedile said about Argentina. “Beatriz Urraca helped us reflect and made us think about what the trip meant and how to integrate it back into our lives at home.”

      When Smedile was invited to Costa Rica, she wanted to help current students reflect on their travel experiences, as she had done a decade ago. She said a highlight of the trip was meeting the students, as well as the Costa Ricans who have formed strong bonds with Urraca and Madigosky.

      “I love people so it was neat for us to meet with an array of different people to get a broad idea of what it is like to be in the coffee industry in Costa Rica – from production to roasting to cupping,” she said. “They’ve cultivated these relationships so that the people they brought us to meet were excited to share what they know.”

      Now back in the United States, Smedile and the students said their morning cup of coffee will never be the same.

      “I want to support coffee that has integrity,” Smedile said. “That is where I want to put my money.”


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