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SUNY Plattsburgh Students Do Research in Mexico

PLATTSBURGH, NY __ When most students plan a spring break trip to Mexico, they seldom envision receiving a grade for their efforts. 

The group poses for a photo while in Mexico. During the recent break, eleven students from the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh traveled to Mexico to do research as part of their Political Economy of Sustainable Development (INT 301) course.

The students were accompanied by their faculty supervisors Dr. Ellen Fitzpatrick, associate professor of economics, Latin American studies and Asian studies, and Oscar Flores, lecturer of foreign languages and literature and Latin American studies. 

The trip started in the town of Guadalajara where the students experienced sustainable development projects in rural, low-income communities. They later moved on to communities in the state of Nyarit where they worked on a variety of projects.

Some students focused on the effect that a World Bank dam is having on indigenous people in the area. Others examined the sustainability of shrimp farming in the mangrove swamps along the Pacific coast.  A third group of students studied a women's cooperative where yogurt is manufactured. They examined the growth of the collective, which has evolved from a kitchen project to a state-of-the-art, yogurt-producing facility. 

The visit also gave the students time to appreciate some of the cultural aspects of Mexico. They visited museums, a tequila factory and the University of Guadalajara.

"Experiencing the struggle that many in the third world face can be transformational for our students," said Fitzpatrick. "Often students' view of the world and their place in the world are broaden by the experience. I believe that establishing programs that are able to do that is one of the most important things a liberal arts institution can do."

The students who participated in the trip were Tom Azzarella, Janice Bonsu, Joseph Ceradini, Eric Fiske, Lance Jefferson, Benjamin Jolly, Delphina Liles, Brendon Nicholas, Samantha Robillard, Jeremiah Ward and Carolyn Wharton.

Azzarella, a senior earth and environmental science major from Williamsville, N.Y., said that the course and trip provided a wonderful experience.

"The trip was truly amazing," said Azzarella. "Sustainable development is a field that I am hoping to go into when I graduate. So it was a great opportunity to use what we had been discussing in class."

The students will make a presentation about the trip Wednesday, April 27 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Plattsburgh Room, Angell College Center. All are invited to attend.

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