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ICADS Partner Spotlight: Celebrating 30 years with Pitzer College

By: Pitzer College / ICADS

December 12, 2022

ICADS AND PITZER COLLEGE Since its founding in 1986, ICADS has expanded its programs and grown along with changes in the fields of development, human rights, ecology and sustainability, and it has remained true to its commitment to small classes and its goals of challenging students’ experiences in critical thinking, community-based pedagogy, culture, language, social change and action.

For 30 years, Pitzer College has been a consistent, strong partner that shares ICADS' approach to education. In 1993 Pitzer College was one of the first institutions of higher education to send students to ICADS' semester program. In the summer of 1998, Pitzer College and ICADS joined hands in a six-week intensive cultural immersion healthcare program in San Jose. To this day, students selected for this program stay with host families who serve as co-educators, receive intensive Spanish classes and lectures from local experts, travel the country, and, central to it all, intern in local health care and educational organizations.

Ann Stromberg with Pitzer College Summer Healthcare Group in the late 90s
Pitzer College Summer Healthcare Program in the early years of the program

This partnership, built on trust, close collaboration, and shared values, is in no small part thanks to several key individual efforts. Professor Ann Stromberg, Ph.D., M.P.H, proposed this summer program to Pitzer College’s Study Abroad office, with hopes of attracting pre-medical students and those interested in related health fields to a study abroad program focused on health and Spanish-language immersion. (Students with any major may participate—and do.) Likewise, Mike Donahue of Pitzer College's Study Abroad office has been essential and appreciated for many years of directly overseeing and teaching in the program with expertise and passion. Colleague Jamie Francis is a stalwart, a key, in keeping all of us on-track. The College’s heads of Study Abroad, Tom Manley, Carol Brandt, and Michael Ballagh have never wavered in support of this program.

 At 80 years of age, "founding mother" Stromberg looks forward to involvement again this year. She says that working together with amazing Pitzer College and ICADS colleagues, and open and inspiring students, has been one of the highlights and greatest pleasures of her career. Pitzer College has recognized Stromberg’s long-term commitment to the public health summer program in Costa Rica by naming a new dormitory located at the Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology, Albergue Stromberg.

Eventually, our institutional partnership expanded to include Pitzer College's semester-long program located at the Firestone Center. Students spend their first five weeks of this program in San Jose at ICADS, beginning their immersive cultural experience: living with families, engaging in the rigors of Block I’s Perspectives course, traveling to a variety of ecosystems, and studying Spanish.

ICADS’ teachers and staff have grown with and learned from our Pitzer College colleagues over the years and our partnerships has developed into respectful friendships. We look forward to engaging the challenges of the future together!

—ICADS and Pitzer College staff, written in collaboration


FORMER PITZER COLLEGE STUDENT RETURNS TO COSTA RICA My name is Tim Jones and I am a full professor of Political Science at Bellevue College in Bellevue, Washington. I graduated from Pitzer College in 2000, and in 1998 I was among the first cohorts of Pitzer students to study at ICADS. When I arrived for the Summer language program in August 1998 I didn’t speak Spanish and I was uncertain about my major. By the time I completed ICADS in December 1998 I spoke advanced Spanish and, although I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time, I had developed a passion for politics, social justice, and experiential learning that would shape the rest of my life. 

I went on to double major in Political Studies and International and Intercultural Studies and I returned to Latin America for five consecutive years—mostly Nicaragua and Cuba where I had first traveled as an ICADS student. I thought for sure that I would eventually move to Latin America and make my home there, but once I started graduate school in 2003 my life took a different direction: I got married, I finished my M.A. and Ph.D., I had two children, and I started teaching politics (mostly American Government) at Bellevue College. 

The focus of my dissertation research (foreign nation invisibility in U.S. political discourse) was sparked by my experiences doing my ICADS field work in Nicaragua in 1998 when Hurricane Mitch devastated the country. Similarly, my emphases on social justice and experiential learning in my teaching and extracurriculars were most definitely shaped by my experiences at ICADS (and Pitzer). For example, as a professor, I have led dozens of short-term experiential learning programs to places as varied as the American South, Ireland, the Galápagos Islands, the Czech Republic, and New York City, focusing on topics like sustainability, colonialism, and racism, all of which I first learned about in depth while at ICADS. 

The Jones-Chawla Family with their host mom
The Jones-Chawla Family with the Fall Semester 2022 students

Over the years, however, my ability to communicate in Spanish went dormant from lack of practice and I became fearful that I might never speak Spanish comfortably again. Fortunately, I was granted a quarter long sabbatical in Fall 2022 and after much discussion with my wife we decided to take our kids out of school and travel to Latin America to study Spanish together as a family. We considered several different programs (mostly focused on families and kids), but ultimately we ended up (back) at ICADS. For five weeks in September and October of 2022 we did Spanish classes four hours a day in the same classrooms that I had studied in as a college student 24 years prior (and then we spent an additional three weeks traveling around Costa Rica as a family). My wife took beginning Spanish with two Pitzer students, I took advanced Spanish with three students from other colleges, and my kids who are 10 and 7 were in their own class. 

In addition to taking Spanish, my family also engaged as much as we could in other parts of the ICADS program. For example, my wife and I took turns attending the morning lectures and as a family we did several field trips with the college students, including a three-day adventure to the Caribbean Coast. The staff at ICADS did a really nice job of including my family and the overall experience was incredible. All of us, my kids included, developed meaningful relationships with the college students as well as the ICADS staff and we spent many hours chatting about life and politics, laughing, passing the hacky sack or a soccer ball, playing basketball, playing games, dancing, etc. My kids even got to write their first college essays, which they were both very proud to get A’s on :) Afterwards my 7 year-old daughter said she wanted to become a journalist and my 10-year old son said he can’t wait to go to Pitzer and study abroad again as a “real” college student.

For me personally, it was really meaningful to return to ICADS after so many years away, to relearn Spanish to such a degree that I feel “fluent” again, to reflect on what I gained from doing ICADS the first time around, how it shaped my life, and how it will hopefully shape the lives of my kids going forward. I feel more rejuvenated as a teacher and I look forward to focusing more on Latin America in general and Costa Rica in particular in the classes I teach in the future. I already thought highly of the ICADS program—otherwise I wouldn’t have returned with my family—but doing part of it again with the perspective of a college professor I really think the program is top-notch and I can’t recommend it highly enough to others. If you are an ICADS alum and you have an inkling to return to Costa Rica—perhaps with your family—DO IT! I did, and it was great! Pura vida!

—Tim Jones, Pitzer College '00, ICADS '98, '22

August 17, 2022

Alumni Newsletter

A few weeks ago, ICADS received an email from an alumnus from 1993, which was only a few years into the existence of the program. Hearing a little about this once student's experience and how ICADS changed the trajectory of their life rang familiar to us here, and we hope to celebrate that legacy and the mission that enables it.

March 18, 2021

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February 19, 2021

In Doing, We Learn: Reflections on Virtual and Hands-On Learning

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