Pura Vida with a Purpose: Energizing Engagement with Human Rights through Service-Learning


  • Carolyn Bartick Ericson Christopher Newport University




international education, service-learning, international service-learning, human rights, competencies


This paper examines the effects of an international service-learning course with a strong human rights component. Human rights have social justice as an essential component and advancing both are considered core competencies in social work. International education in colleges and universities has gained in popularity as has service-learning. Research has been carried out in both these areas. However, less research has been done on the combination of the two. In this paper a course is described during which students spent three weeks in Costa Rica, the land of Pura Vida, learning about its human rights efforts, its language, getting to know its people, and providing service to some of its citizens. An analysis of student surveys and journals revealed a strengthened belief on the part of the participants that they are competent to have an impact on the world as well as having a responsibility to do so.

Author Biography

Carolyn Bartick Ericson, Christopher Newport University

Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology Social Work Program Director Associate Professor