January 31, 2008
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Lipscomb Engages Students with Costa Rican Trip
Michael Lipscomb, an associate professor of political science, led a trip in early January to Costa Rica to study women involved in economic and environmental initiatives.
He traveled to the island of Chira, home to about 3,000 inhabitants on the upper end of the Gulf of Nicoya, with 15 students and fellow political science faculty member Jennifer Disney. The group observed the effects of globalization on the residents’ lives and how families, particularly women, are making a living as the traditional fishing economy becomes a less secure basis for sustaining their community.
“They’re setting up the area as an ecotourism attraction,” said Lipscomb, who was honored at the December commencement with the university’s teaching award, the James Pinckney Kinard and Lee Wicker Kinard Award for Excellence in Teaching.
“We looked at the degree to which it may solve or create more problems there.”
Lipscomb specializes in political theory, particularly in critical and postmodern political theory, democratic theory, feminist theory and environmental politics. The Costa Rican trip brought together many of those interests.
During the five days on the island, the group helped clear paths and filled in ditches to solve irrigation problems. They stayed in lodges that the natives have built to help attract tourists to the area.
The students included human nutrition, environmental studies, biology and political science majors, so each approached the experience from a different perspective, Lipscomb said.
Back at Winthrop, students will spend the spring semester reading several books about the intersection of ecotourism and women’s place in Costa Rican society.
The university’s International Center helped coordinate the nine-day trip.
Lipscomb, who is known for encouraging students to apply the lessons learned in the classroom to their lives, embraced the Costa Rican trip and its service-learning component as a way to show first-hand the struggles by communities to maintain the environment and to make a living.
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