Twelve University of Georgia students traveled to Costa Rica in May to present research projects, along with 12 University of Costa Rica students, as part of an international undergraduate research symposium hosted by UGA's Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities at the UGA Costa Rica campus in San Luis.
"This was a wonderful opportunity to take CURO to the next level and explore international and cross-cultural exchange based on mutual research interests," said David S. Williams, director of UGA's Honors Program, which administers CURO. "We very much enjoyed partnering with our friends at the University of Costa Rica."
Sofía Arce Flores, academic programs and volunteer coordinator for the Costa Rica campus and a graduate of both UGA and UCR, and María Ruth Martínez, a UGA doctoral student in environmental and ecological anthropology, were instrumental in preparing the symposium.
Since both women are originally from Costa Rica, they were able to give the students lessons in cultural sensibility, provide language translation between UGA and UCR students, and share informally some of their own environmental research experiences.
Arce Flores said that some UCR participants expressed interest in coming to UGA for graduate studies after interacting with the UGA students and meeting Maureen Grasso, dean of UGA's Graduate School.
UGA research projects presented included recent graduate Erika Vinson's analysis of The ArtReach Foundation's creative expressive arts activities training workshops for educators, and rising sophomore Long Doan's examination of how people's occupations affect their emotions.
"The experience presenting my research in Costa Rica was like no other," said Vinson, who earned her bachelor's degree in Honors interdisciplinary studies in May. "It was truly a unique experience having the cloud forest and toucans right outside my window as I presented to a bilingual and multi-cultural audience. It was surreal and wonderful."
A special edition of CURO's Journal for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (JURO), an online undergraduate research journal covering the humanities, arts and social sciences, is planned to feature some of the best symposium presentations.
"While the CURO symposium in Athens successfully stresses and encourages the broad nature of research activities at the university, the international symposium attempts to foster cooperation and understanding between fellow researchers of different cultures," said Joshua Watkins, another UGA presenter who recently earned his bachelor's degrees in political science and psychology.
Preparation for the symposium involved the Honors Program, the Institute of Ecology, the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, and the Office of International Education, as well as the UGA Costa Rica campus staff located in Athens and San Luis.
In addition to the presentations, the students participated in a day-long design exercise evaluating the future infrastructure development of the Costa Rica campus.
"The CURO international research symposium in Costa Rica was the most dynamic study abroad program experience that I have witnessed at the UGA Costa Rica campus to date," said Quint Newcomer, director of UGA Costa Rica. "Without a doubt, this symposium has stimulated both UGA and UCR student participants to embrace their role as global citizens working together for the common good."