Campus News

UGA students participate in week-long CURO international symposium in Costa Rica

UGA students participate in week-long CURO international symposium in Costa Rica

Athens, Ga. – Twelve University of Georgia students, along with 12 Universidad de Costa Rica students, will participate in an international undergraduate research symposium May 12-17 at the UGA Costa Rica campus in San Luis de Monteverde, Costa Rica. This is the second year that UGA and UCR have partnered on an interdisciplinary study abroad research experience, hosted by the Honors Program’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) and UGA Costa Rica.

“The CURO International Research Symposium in Costa Rica combines key elements in an honors education at the University of Georgia-research, study abroad and international civic engagement-into one exciting five-day experience for some of our top students who join top students from Universidad de Costa Rica,” said David S. Williams, director of UGA’s Honors Program.

The 24 students will have the opportunity to present their research projects in a variety of disciplines ranging from economics to infectious diseases during the week-long symposium. They also will share their ideas, culture and experiences in a relaxed setting during hiking, bird-watching and other activities designed to explore the campus and surrounding Monteverde region.

“The UGA and UCR students who participate in the CURO International Research Symposium represent the future scholars and leaders of the United States and Costa Rica,” said Pamela Kleiber, associate director of the Honors Program, who coordinates the CURO programs. “The relationships these undergraduate scholars form and the conversations they begin will lead to continuing dialogue and broadened research agendas pertinent in a global society.”

As part of the CURO international symposium, the undergraduates will be discussing current water issues faced by both Georgia and Costa Rica residents. The students will participate in focus groups facilitated by UGA students Andrew Durso, a junior ecology major from Raleigh, N.C., and Aqsa Mahmud, a senior political science and psychology major from Conyers. Water experts from UGA and Costa Rica also will contribute to the discussion.

After Durso and Mahmud present their findings to the group, the data collected will be used as a basis for a discussion guide, similar to the National Issues Forum booklets that are used in community forums on national and international issues.

“I think any real, long-term solutions to environmental problems will inevitably involve stakeholders in many political entities,” said Durso. “Species, watersheds and other ecological entities know no political boundaries, and too many pollutants or not enough water may transfer across those boundaries to the citizens downstream. This conference is a valuable step for our nations and our universities, as well as good experience for future policymakers and researchers in the field.”

During the visit, the students also will complete a service-learning project that will benefit the region. They will participate in UGA Costa Rica’s carbon offset program, planting trees that will offset carbon emissions related to their travel abroad and help establish long-term research sites as part of the Monteverde Biological Corridor project.

Additionally, the students will work with UGA graduate Justin Welch on a project that studies water quality in Monteverde. Welch earned his master’s degree in ecology in 2006 and now works for the Monteverde Institute, a non-profit association focused on community engagement, applied research and education.

“Having a service learning component integrates students with the community and makes the study abroad experience all the more meaningful,” said Quint Newcomer, director of UGA Costa Rica. “Our programs in Costa Rica emphasize participatory education through which students begin to see their surroundings as a living classroom. We encourage them to reflect on their experiences and hopefully return to Athens and seek out opportunities to engage this community as well.”

The UGA undergraduate participants are:

Name Hometown Major(s)

Lee Ellen Carter Macon anthropology
Lauren Kelly Alpharetta microbiology, Spanish
Aqsa Mahmud Conyers political science, psychology
Diana Murro Martinez microbiology, Spanish
Victor Orellana Suwanee exercise and sports science
Tulsi Patel Acworth genetics
Cleveland Piggott Suwanee psychology, biology
Darryl Tricksey Atlanta environmental health science
Traci Tucker Roswell sociology, psychology
Manouela Valtcheva Alpharetta psychology, biology
Jessica Van Parys Suwanee economics, political science
Seychelle Vos Seneca, SC. genetics

For more information on UGA’s Honors Program, see

For more information on UGA’s Costa Rica campus, see

For more information on Universidad de Costa Rica, see