by Heather Kennison
While its first couple months were a whirlwind of activity, the Whitworth Costa Rica campus has developed both in physical structure and community.
Still in its first year, the campus has been informally nicknamed “Whitworth South.” Like Whitworth’s Spokane campus, the university puts a large focus on its students.
In fact, “community” is one of the many “buzz” words at the university, teaching assistant Kristina Kielbon said.
“Because we are a small group, we need to think about how the community can thrive and how each individual can thrive,” Kielbon said.
In this case, community does not only mean the students, but also the families in the surrounding area, with whom campus director Lindy Scott has become acquainted.
“We interact with the community around us,” Kielbon said. “Our community is a mix of Whitworth students and the Ticos (Costa Ricans) that are around here.”
The local community became a topic of discussion for the 31 Jan Term students in the philosophy of forgiveness and our response to the poor class.
“Some of the families with whom we were working were being evicted,” Scott said. “We began to work through what is our response to the poor.”
The Jan Term class, taught by assistant professor Joshue Orozco and professor Rick Hornor, was only one way that students at Whitworth South have applied their knowledge to the surrounding environment. In last fall’s Core 350 class, students also brainstormed some policy-making ideas.
“Policies that they discussed in Core 350, such as sustainability and solar energy for dorms, are [now] becoming a reality,” Scott said.
A proposal for a solar panel water heater was accepted in January and began to be executed on campus in late February, Kielbon said.
The Core class goes by the nickname of “corazón 350” – corazón being the Spanish word for heart. Creating a culture of community at Whitworth South has been an ongoing process, and evolves with each semester’s students.
“Each group sort of defines its own culture,” Kielbon said. “Everyone that comes here gets to put in their two cents to shape the entire experience for those who come after them.”
Kielbon said that she sees herself as one of the many innovators. She works at the Whitworth Costa Rica center as one of the three volunteers, or “24-7s.” Although a challenging position, it is also a very rewarding one, Kielbon said.
“We try to encourage that students take it into their own hands to create their own experience,” Kielbon said.
Whether it’s through host families, trips to the mall, visits to the nearby capital of San José or just hanging around campus, students at Whitworth campus help shape their own community.