Founded 30 years ago, the Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS) is a center for study, research, and analysis of Central American social and environmental issues. We focus on economic development, politics, environmental studies, sustainable development, public health, women’s issues, education, human rights, and conservation.
We offer four categories of programs: three distinct Study Abroad programs through which students can earn academic credit toward their university degree; a Summer Internship program; intensive Spanish language courses designed to immerse students in the Costa Rican context; and we also work with universities to create customized short-term programs. Students learn through readings, lectures, and interaction with local people in both Costa Rica and Nicaragua via internships and voluntary service.
Mission and Values
We seek to educate participants about Central America by teaching Spanish and by offering academic programs that utilize a theoretically critical perspective as well as hands-on experience to help students deepen insights into current social, political and economic realities and their effects on the environment and society, especially the poor and marginalized.
We aim to provide support to organizations and communities throughout the countries where we work; especially to groups that have demonstrated a commitment to learning and/or are dedicated to social justice work in areas such as education, healthcare, human rights, anti-hunger issues, and environmental issues. We do this through regular donations and utilization of services.
To increase understanding of the region within a historical perspective; to develop a theoretical framework for the analysis of root causes, forms and dimensions of underdevelopment and injustice; to stimulate critical evaluation of current development strategies, analyzing their effects on women, children, the poor, and the environment; and to search for alternative methods, policies, and strategies.
The Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS) was created in 1986 to fill the information gap in foreign policy between United States citizens and their government. In conversation with scholars actively engaged in research in Central America, it was concluded that the best way to go about gaining a deeper understanding is through both rigorous academic study and social engagement with real Central American communities that are working to solve some of the most challenging problems of the day.
Spanish classes are held in ICADS’ beautiful garden.
Students trying tropical fruits during the “Fiesta de Frutas.”
In today’s increasingly connected and globalized world, we at ICADS believe that it is now more important than ever to understand the complex issues impacting the peoples of both the global North and South. Thirty years after the founding of ICADS, we remain committed to providing opportunities for language and cultural immersion through classes and community work, lectures and contact with “regular” Central Americans, who are the real experts when it comes to Central American life.
I would recommend ICADS to other students because the different programs help to understand different cultures of Central American countries. Also, it was nice to work in small groups. It made me feel more comfortable. The staff was very supportive in giving us everything we needed. They were like a second family when we were away from our home.Melissa Michalek, Saint Mary’s College
Faculty and Staff
Our team is made up of experts committed to your academic success, health, and safety. Many of us have spent decades working with US students in Central America, and in topics related to our academic work. Many of us, both North and Central Americans, are bilingual, and we all love working cross culturally with students like you in our tropical context.
- Keith Poe, MPS, MBA, Internship Faculty in Nicaragua. Keith was born to US parents living abroad and has lived in Nicaragua for many years. He holds and MBA from the Central American University in Managua, Nicaragua, and a Master’s in Rural Development from Cornell University. Keith has worked in Haiti, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Nicaragua in agricultural and development projects, and works with ICADS interns in Nicaragua as course faculty. He has been with ICADS in the capacity of internship faculty since January of 2015, and as a lecturer to ICADS study tours to Nicaragua since 2010.
- Karla Sosa, Internship Coordinator in Nicaragua. Karla is Nicaraguan and has been working with ICADS for over 10 years, first as a host family for students living in Nicaragua, and now for the past 10 years as internship coordinator. Karla assists in placing students in internships, and carries out visits, logistical support, as well as coordination of ICADS study tours in Nicaragua during the semester program.