Costa Rica

Sustainable Development Studies


This academically rigorous program follows a five-day/week schedule. Most weekends are open. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in Costa Rica. Read more about the SFS program model.

Major academic themes may include:

  • Climate change and tropical ecosystems
  • Agroforestry and conservation
  • Vertebrate ecology
  • Water Conservation
  • Urban ecology
  • Sustainable ecotourism
  • Carbon sequestration


On the Sustainable Development Studies program, you will take three 4-credit disciplinary courses, one 2-credit language and culture course, and a 4-credit capstone Directed Research course. Courses are participatory in nature and are designed to foster inquiry and active learning. Each course combines lectures, field exercises, assignments, tests, and research. All courses are taught in English.

Click on each course to view a description and download the syllabus

SFS 2050 Language, Culture, and Society of Costa Rica 2 credits
SFS 3740 Principles of Resource Management 4 credits
SFS 3770 Tropical Ecology and Sustainable Development 4 credits
SFS 3820 Environmental Ethics and Development 4 credits
SFS 4910 Directed Research 4 credits

Core Skills

You will gain practical skills in the field such as: GIS use and applications, species identification, habitat and biodiversity assessment, vertebrate ecology, tourism impact assessment methods, basic Spanish language skills, research design and implementation, quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, and research presentation.

Field Sites

You will visit different ecosystems and communities which may include lowland tropical rainforest, tropical cloud forest, Pacific coastal rainforest, dry forests, national parks, agroecosystems, farms, volcanoes, mangroves, coastal ecosystems, and the highlands of northern Panama.

Directed Research

In the Directed Research course, each student completes a field research project under the mentorship of a faculty member – beginning with data collection and analysis and concluding with a research paper and presentation. Project subject areas span ecology, natural resource management, conservation science, environmental ethics, and socioeconomics.

Find Out More
All program components are subject to change.

Where You'll Be Living

The Center is an active active farm overlooking the vibrant Central Valley, where green is the predominant color as far as the eye can see. Dorms and classrooms intermingle with orchards and gardens, while Center dog Hera keeps watch over it all. The friendly town of Atenas is a 10-minute cab ride away, offering restaurants, shops, parks, and cultural events.

  • Dorm living with 4-person bunkrooms
  • Classroom, library, computer lab, and laundry room
  • Open-air porch with hammocks and chairs
  • Dining hall with scenic valley views, and on-site cooking staff
  • Swimming pool, soccer field, basketball court, and pizza oven
  • Outdoor classroom, nursery, greenhouse, and a vegetable garden