Hello all and welcome to the ICADS Alumni Newsletter. I hope this is the beginning of something that can bring us all together across space and time. Sharing a common experience like time at ICADS can serve as a powerful catalyst for forming connections and sharing ideas. 

At ICADS we have a long history, rich with diverse students and faculty, many of whom share some part of their cosmovision with each other. As we seem to be continuously barreling into a digital world, I would like to take advantage of some of the tools at our disposal to put together some pleasant and thought-provoking content for you potentially like-minded people out there. If there is to be any promotion in this Newsletter, it will be of ICADS alumni projects and initiatives. ICADS has had a staff blog and put together portfolios of students work and always has an open door (and cafecito) policy, I hope this newsletter will develop into another platform for sharing and more.

My inbox ([email protected]) is open to suggestions and submissions. Here is my first attempt! 

Thanks for reading!

– Benjamin D. Chamberlain

Liz Crouse, January term 2022, holding up her sketch to the landscape she painted it from outside her host families house in San Jose

Hello! My name is Liz Crouse, and I am a recent graduate of Elon University.

My experience in Costa Rica surpassed any expectations I had going into the three-week program. Before studying abroad, I did not stop to consider that the beauty of the country lies not in its natural resources, but in the people and communities that reside there. Whether enjoying café with my familia tica after school, taking Spanish classes with Rosa, or hiking in La Fortuna with a friendly tico tour guide I met along the way, the people who welcomed my classmates and me made Costa Rica feel like home in just three short weeks.

I don’t mean to make it sound like my time in Costa Rica was all fun and games–part of what made my experience abroad so impactful was the growth that came with learning to handle challenging situations in a new country. After a sprained ankle, a case of COVID, and a phone that broke the morning I began my quarantine, I can definitely say that navigating difficult decisions, physical maladies and cultural differences made me a stronger, more confident person.

As I become more entrenched in advocacy and community development work in my first post-graduate position, I would argue that the world has a lot to learn from Costa Rica. The country’s unwavering commitment to its natural resources and sustainable development in the face of unprecedented challenges is something that I think about every day. But again, the material resources and beauty of Costa Rica are not what make the country special. Instead, it is the ticos and ticas that are dedicated to one another, to diversity and inclusion, and to a brighter future that inspire hope in me that one day, the communities I am a part of might grow into ones like those that welcomed me in Costa Rica–not perfect, but authentic, diverse, and beautiful.

Thanks for reading, and Pura Vida!


Palm Oil – The Grease of Empire by Max Haiven 2022

Setting out to use the history of a little-understood commodity to track the movements and spirit of empire, colonialism, and capitalism is no easy task. The far reaching tentacles of palm oil tracked in this book are a perfect place to start exactly the kinds of conversations we are trying to engage in. As I drove a student down the highway along the Central Pacific Coast, we observed the vast palm plantations on either side of the road. When asked what palm oil is even used in, I had to admit that I wasn’t totally sure. This book subsequently caught my eye. 

Though the history of palm oil is not centralized in Latin America, the far-reaching themes in this book will be of interest to anyone that cares about the seemingly invisible movements behind global capital and power. A short and compelling read for pleasure or educational purposes, I highly recommend picking it up! – BDC

Joanie Fieser, Grinnell College
ICADS 2022 Spring Semester Field Program

During my 5 ½ months in Costa Rica, I got into the habit of leaving little birds behind. When I stayed with a community organization, family, or hostel, I thanked them with a heartfelt note and a small painting of a regionally-specific bird. The flock includes a great green macaw for my host family in Talamanca, a Montezuma oropendola for El Yüe, a keel-billed toucan for Cabinas Palmer Makanda, a resplendent quetzal for my host family in Piedra Alta, a fiery-billed aracari for Doña Patricia at Longo Mai, a white-throated magpie jay for the family I stayed with in Guanacaste, an eastern bluebird (a symbol of my home, Missouri) for my San Jose host mom, among others.

The inspiration that these little birds represent is two-fold. First, Costa Rica inspired me as an artist. Second, Costa Rica inspired me to be just that much more conscious and expressive of my gratitude. Everyday, even on the toughest days when I had dengue fever or panicked because an ATM swallowed my debit card, I felt the warmth of gratitude. Guided by gratefulness, I learned that many of those problems that make me panic, that make me feel stuck and scared and hopeless in the moment really aren’t so terrible after all. With creativity, patience, and the courage to ask for help, a bunch of those seemingly impossible problems can be resolved. I learned that though I am not invincible, I am very capable and very privileged. While I continue to figure out where I fit into the world and how to be the most patient, helpful, sensitive, person that I can be, I aim to start and end every day with gratitude. Thank you to ICADS and all the wonderful people I met in Costa Rica for the inspiration. 

Joanie is currently working on a short documentary film about the community of Cahuita, Costa Rica, which she began after her ICADS experience with the support of Grinnell College. The film is to be released in late August of this year. Contact [email protected] if you are interested in watching the film

The back of an ICADS shirt from 1993, relevant as ever.

Regarding this newsletter, I am open to ideas and truly hope we can make something thought-provoking and worth recording for posterity. I am hoping to send it out once or twice a year, I don’t want it to get too long, and I want to keep it alumni focused. Of course, that means I will need contributors. 

Some ideas for the future include:

  • Announcements of what ICADS alumni are working on
  • Possibility for reader engagement: sharing memories, discussing or reflecting on the newsletter through the Facebook page
  • Growing networking possibilities 
  • Relevant book reviews 
  • “Where are they now?” stories
  • Alumni think pieces or op-eds

Thanks for reading along, we look forward to sharing and learning more together!


More Posts

Politics and Religion Through Costa Rican History

Religion, gender, and politics are difficult topics to talk about in Costa Rica, and believe it or not they’re always related. Kattia Castro Flores, an ICADS speaker, is a mother, theologist, and feminist (although it sounds contradictory) has been studying for years the relationship of these three items, and how they affect people.

Community Partner Forum:

ICADS Staff members Anthony Chamberlian and Gabriel Vargas had the chance to attend the Community Partner Forum (CPF) organized by the GESI Staff of the Buffet Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University. Gabriel tells us his experience in this blog post!