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Programs : Brochure

This page is the brochure for your selected program. Questions? Email the appropriate Program Advisor listed below.
  • Locations: San Jose, Costa Rica
  • Program Terms: Spring
  • Restrictions: WUSTL applicants only
Dates / Deadlines:

There are currently no active application cycles for this program.
Program Description:

S55-5381/S60-5381: Sustainability, Development and Health: Costa Rica  (3 credits)


Sustainability Studies is a transdisciplinary field that integrates the economic, social, environmental, and technological problems that humanity must solve if our species is to continue to thrive on this planet. This course will employ lessons from diverse fields including, but not limited to, agriculture, forestry, energy production, environmental economics, domestic and international policy, ecology, resource management, and human health. The course introduces perspectives from the natural and social sciences, arts and humanities, and professional disciplines and explores how their interconnection increases the prospects for creating a more sustainable future. The course will be taught in Costa Rica at Earth University.  While Costa Rica will provide many of the case examples used in the class, experts from many disciplines will provide lectures and learning opportunities from cases around the world. Specific topics to be explored include: paradigms and worldviews; agriculture, forestry, and food systems;  principles of ecology, physics and economics; energy and natural resource and conservation; cultural sustainability; environmental politics and justice; ethics and religion; sustainable agriculture; conservation and preservation of ecosystems and species; and the roles of the arts; ecological connections to human health.

Costa Rica field based

Description of Course Activities:

This course will be an intensive, in-country, course taking place in Costa Rica in May, 2020 for 10 days (it will not interfere with graduation). Three ‘pre-class’ meetings will set the stage for the course.These meetings will provide the background and “what to expect” on the trip. The balance of the course will be conducted around Costa Rica.

Each day the course will explore a new topic related to sustainability and human health (some topics may span two days). Each day will have three domains of study: People, Planet, and Policy.  Potential visits include:

Selva Verde Lodge and La Selva Biological Station
  • Policy: Conservation Policy and Policies Protecting Habitat and Individual Species – Lectures by Joe Steensma (Co-instructor) and Ivan Castillo (Selva Verde).
  • People: Discussion about the positive and negative externalities of such policies
  • Planet: Students will do field work in the rainforest including species counts and habitat assessments.
  • Evening lecture with Cope, an accomplished and world renown artist, who specializes in portraying animals in healthy ecosystems.
  • Tour the middle elevation communities and ecosystems
  • People: Tour of hydroelectric power plant and geothermal production facilities – Institute of Costa Rican Electricity (ICE)
  • People: Students will visit the most famous ecotourism destination in the Americas and interact with the Costa Rican people who rely on the forest to survive.
  • Policy: Sustainable Fisheries Management, Marine Protected Areas, and Nutrition 
  • People: Students will interview local fisherman
  • Planet: Students will conduct a reef health assessment to determine the health of a coastal reef ecosystem
  • Policy: Bringing it all together – Public Health in Costa Rica – Student led lectures on each of the modules covered in the class and how they relate to public health.
  • People: Students will tour a hospital in Liberia to get a better understanding of the utilization and effectiveness of healthcare in Costa Rica
  • Planet: Discussion on longevity, productive life-years, and demographic transitions
(Note, these are subject to change based on scheduling constraints).

Core Competencies:

Transdisciplinary Problem Solving: The ability to develop and apply a transdisciplinary approach in identifying public health problems and solutions is increasingly critical to public health practice.  Transdisciplinary problem-solving methods require creating and using a shared disciplinary framework to analyze and address complex public health problems, integrating insights and approaches from a wide range of biological, behavioral, social, and public health disciplines. This course addresses the interactions of economy, culture, environment, and human health.  Students will engage with problem solvers in agronomy, forestry, fisheries, public health, policy, and energy to understand public health from a transdisciplinary perspective.  They will work with teams develop and apply transdisciplinary solutions to public health problems.

Social and Behavioral Sciences: Social, behavioral and cultural factors greatly influence the health of individuals and populations over the life course. Upon completion of this course a student will have had opportunities to apply theories, concepts, and models from a range of social and behavioral science disciplines to understand and improve the social conditions and behaviors affecting the health of populations and individuals. Further, students will analyze determinants of health and disease using an ecological framework.

Environmental health sciences explore environmental factors including biological, physical, chemical, and psychosocial factors that affect population health. Upon the completion of this course students will have had the opportunity to:
  • Specify approaches to identifying, assessing, mitigating, and preventing environmental hazards that pose risks to human health and safety, including use of current environmental risk assessment methods.
  • Explain the biological and molecular pathogenesis basis of public health, and the general mechanisms of toxicity and insult in eliciting pathogenic and salutogenic responses to chemical, biological, physical, and psychosocial environmental exposures. 
  • Interpret health effects of contemporary environmental issues including global climate change, food security, urbanization, transportation, and energy production.
Diversity, Culture, and Health Disparities: The ability to interact effectively with diverse individuals and communities to jointly produce beneficial public health outcomes. Students in this course will:
  • Apply social justice and human rights principles when addressing public health needs.
  • Develop public health programs and strategies that are responsive to the cultural values and traditions of diverse communities being served.


Double occupancy rooms for all students in hostel/hotel/dormitories.


This course is open to all Brown students. Students must apply via this website and the deadline is October 18, 2019. If chosen, you will be required to enroll in the course for the spring. If you are a second year student, your official graduation date will be August, although you will be able to participate in the May graduation ceremony before the course travels.


The cost per student is $1000. This will cover flights from Chicago (students are responsible for getting to Chicago), housing, in-country transportation, and some meals. Students are responsible for the costs of any meals, visas, required or recommended immunizations or other expenses not noted.

For questions, please contact Tammy Orahood, Director of Global Programs, Brown School, at