Santa Clara University

Food & Agribusiness Institute

Immersion Trips

Costa Rica & Nicaragua Immersion 2011

From June 27th through July 8th, Dr. Gregory Baker, Director of the Food and Agribusiness Institute, led Santa Clara University's immersion experience in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  Dr. Baker, along with FAI Assistant Director Jessica Gagnon and FAI Alumnus and Lecturer Michael Harwood, accompanied 8 SCU business undergraduates and 1 student leader to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, where they participated in a range of fun, educational, and truly immersive activities.

Zip lining, hikes to waterfalls, and city tours were among the lighthearted activities the students experienced.  Of the many farms that were toured, some included sugarcane, cacao, banana, and cheese.  They also visited Tierra y Agua, which is a community agriculture collaborative.  These tours walked them through the process from start to finish of growing, harvesting, preparing, and distributing such crops.  It also emphasized the economic impact agriculture has on these communities.  Also on the itinerary were visits to two universities, Earth University in Costa Rica and INCAE University in Nicaragua.  The students got to interact with local students from the area to gain a more personal perspective on issues of hunger and poverty in these communities.  They also visited an elementary school and health clinic in the extremely impoverished Camilo Ortega region in Nicaragua where they planted gardens and plantain trees with the locals.  Students stayed with host families a total of 5 nights, giving them an opportunity to feel closer to and more immersed in the community.

"Falling in love with the people of Costa Rica and Nicaragua has, indeed, transformed everything.  I feel a renewed energy to apply to raduate school because by suding, teachin, and writing about lieraure, I give a voice to people, causes, and ideas."

"I will neve forget the stories I heard, jokes I laughed to, or people I met during this unique service experience."

"In America we live our lives very individually, but in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the history, culture, and traditions are so inerated into the lives of each family, institution and community."

"Life is all about gaining perspective and I feel so blessed to have gained some in a diferent part of the world."

"During our volunteer day, we helped children from the local school to plant banana and plantain trees, cucumbers, carrots and other vegetables in their own backyards.  It was an amazing feeling to know that in a few months, families will be able to eat the products of our labor."

"One of the greatest advantages of this trip in terms of learning was that we witnessed and experienced the vast differences between Costa Rica, the most developed country, and Nicaragua, the least developed country of the region.  As much as this trip was to learn about agriculure, it was also to learn about development."

"Being able to have visited these countries made me more interested in getting to know more and possible revisit in the future when I can bring my education and the skills I learn to help people in need."

"Truthfully, I can say that I fell in love in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.  I fell in love with the people, the food, the culture, the nature, and the people that I was able to share this experience with."

This immersion was tied to a course taught by Dr. Baker, BUSN 151: Food, Hunger, Poverty, Environment Immersion: Costa Rica and Nicaragua, which focused on the social justice behind the business of food production, consumption, hunger, and poverty in those countries.

Future immersions sponsored through FAI will be tied to the new FAI facilitated pathway, Food, Hunger, Poverty, and Environment.  More information about the FHPE Pathway.

For more information, contact Jessica Gagnon by email or by phone 408-554-4086


Ghana Immersion 2009


From June 23rd through July 2nd, Dr. Gregory Baker, director of the Food and Agribusiness Institute, led Santa Clara University's first immersion experience in Africa.  He and visiting professor Dr. Vincent Amanor-Boadu from Kansas State University traveled with twelve SCU business undergraduate students to Ghana where the highlights of their trip included visiting an AIDS hospice, a cacao research institute, a microfinance company, a habitat village, a monkey sanctuary, a slave castle, and a school.  The group also stayed with families for part of their trip.

Reflecting on their experience, some students wrote:

"Going on this immersion trip to Ghana was easily one of the best decisions that I have ever made. It expanded my horizons, pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to reexamine how I view the world."

"I learned so much, met incredible people, and saw a world completely unlike my own.  It was simply unforgettable."

"This immersion trip has encompassed everything I have received through my experience at Santa Clara, building a stronger understanding of business inside and outside the classroom while integrating my knowledge and passion for my major on a global scale."

"Immersion trips are the first step to realizing a universal truth, the truth that despite all of our differences, we are all intertwined. We are all related, bound up together by the common thread of our humanity."

"While in Ghana I came to many revelations about not only the business environment and my own mission but also humanity as a whole."

"Bearing witness to the stories we heard at the Matthew 25 AIDS Clinic was really powerful. In addition the time spent in the Habitat village with our host community was an invaluable look into the day to day life of a Ghanaian."

"I was intrigued by the diversity, beauty, and uniqueness of African culture, music, art, food, lifestyle, and fashion.  I had an enjoyable, educational, and inspiring experience while learning about business in the context of Africa.  My favorite part of the entire trip was living and working with our host families."

"I dreamed Africa would open a window and show me glimpses of history.  The Ghana immersion trip was the most amazing experience of my life."

This immersion was tied to a course taught by Dr. Baker, BUSN 196 Business, Economic Development and Social Change in Ghana.

Future immersions sponsored through FAI will be tied to the new FAI facilitated pathway, Food, Hunger, Poverty, and Environment. More information about the FHPE Pathway.

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