Task Force Report: ‘put Costa Rica Center up for sale’

by Sasha Siclait

After an ongoing process to make a tough decision for Whitworth, the Costa Rica Task Force Report came out two weeks ago, followed by faculty and ASWU meeting this week both discussing the matter.

According to the Task Force Report, the Costa Rica Center is not financially viable given the program’s current structure and operating cost. After interviews with faculty, and faculty and student surveys, the 40 acres of the property located in San Rafael de Heredia, the CRC may be up for sale.

The CRC was established four years ago. The sister campus of Whitworth is located in the mountains of San Rafael in the middle of a forest with greenery that covers the campus.

“Whitworth believes in the narrow ridge, a serious attempt to unite Christian faith and academic scholarship,” said Lindy Scott, director of the CRC. “At the CRC, we worked hard to think and act Christianly in all that we did. Secular overseas programs, like International Student Exchange Programs, can provide a fairly good overseas opportunity for our students, but it doesn’t claim to provide any spiritual insights.”

There has been consistent numerical growth in numbers of students who have spent time in the CRC. In the first year there were 63 students who went to the CRC and 65 in the second year. Numbers rose to 81 students in the third year and 104 students this past year, Scott said.

However, there will still be students traveling to the CRC this Jan-Term, and  some of them participating in internships as well.

“Sadly, the CRC will close just as it was beginning to bear fruit. The number of students who will be able to study abroad in a Whitworth program will drastically plummet to about half of the number that participated last year,” Scott said.

Senior Amanda Muchmore planned to study at the Costa Rica Center this fall in order to complete her Spanish major, but due to the closing of the CRC for semester programs, she will not have the opportunity.

“My program planning was so tight and this was the only option I had to study abroad and this was the only option I had for meeting all my gen-ed and major requirements,” Muchmore said. “The CRC was the only opportunity for me to finish my major that I had been studying since freshman year of high school.”

Some may remember a survey sent out last fall in an attempt to get student input before closing the Costa Rica Center. Some of the questions included whether students were likely to spend a semester abroad at the Costa Rica Center and how likely students were to take courses that were either a part of their major or minor at the Costa Rica Center. Biology, Core 350, sociology and Spanish were some courses taught at the Costa Rica Center to name a few.

“I feel like I got mixed messages from Whitworth in that they really value study abroad but it wasn’t really communicated that way,” Muchmore said.

Not only were students surveyed, but also Whitworth faculty was interviewed and had a more extensive survey of their own. When asked if Whitworth faculty would be willing to teach in Costa Rica, 31 faculty member said they would not be willing to do so. The following question asked faculty what would make them want to teach in Costa Rica, and some responses included extra pay, administration support and a large number of responses included family accommodations.

The Administration is aware of the tension surrounding such a decision, however they recommend collaborative and transparent coordination between Administration and faculty, according to the Costa Rica Task Force Report.

Contact Sasha Siclait at ssiclait16@my.whitworth.edu

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