Program Overview

Please Note: This program will not run in summer 2019

Ecuador provides an ideal setting for exploring issues related to sustainable development. The course will examine the tensions, challenges, and possibilities for reconciling development and conservation in the dry tropical forest zone, a critically important and globally imperiled ecosystem. Course activities are held in Quito and in Bahía de Caráquez. During the first week of the program, students will stay in Quito to take an intensive Spanish course and visit organizations dealing with sustainable development practices. The following three weeks of activities will be developed in Bahia de Caráquez.  In Bahia, students will work closely with staff from Planet Drum Foundation, a San Francisco-based NGO with a long-term presence in the region. At Planet Drum students will engage in service learning through field excursions, discussions with locals, and participation in native forest revegetation projects. Bahia de Caráquez has attempted to rethink its development trajectory after a series of environmental disasters exposed the human toll of unsustainable development practices. You will witness first-hand how the efforts led by Planet Drum and other organizations have made the city more resilient.

Academic Details

If you are an undergraduate or graduate student associated with the fields of planning, public policy, environmental studies, landscape architecture, architecture, anthropology, ethnic studies, cultural studies, sociology, political science, or Latin American studies, you will find this program particularly relevant. 

The course will introduce students to the concepts and practice of sustainable development by analyzing the dynamics and influences of multiple scales: the community, the bioregion, the country, and the globe. Given its past developmental history, its status as a major ecotourism and transnational amenity migration destination, and its recent adoption of a constitution that articulates the notion of “buen vivir” as an alternative to prevailing developmentalist paradigms, Ecuador embodies many of the pressing issues regarding conservation and development. Bahía de Caráquez is a particularly fitting community to study because it designated itself as an Ecocity in 1999 and has since made strides to model more sustainable modes of planning and development. Both the community and Ecuador as a whole have struggled to reconcile these ecological ideals with the pressures of a global economy that remains dominated by narrow goals of economic growth. 

Actual credit awarded is determined by the relevant department at your university in consultation with the study abroad office. Check with your study abroad advisor for more information.

Faculty and Staff

Moriah McSharry McGrath is on the faculty of the School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University, where her work focuses on issues including gender and community health.  She has been involved in experiential learning programs in Asia, Africa, and the Americas and is eager to support non-traditional students in studying abroad.  Dr. McGrath’s expertise will be complemented by sessions with local officials and NGO representatives.

Housing Description

During the first week of the program, you will stay in a hostel and in a homestay placement in Quito. For the following three weeks, you will be stay at the Planet Drum House or in a hostel located in Bahía de Caráquez, with convenient access to public transportation. Breakfasts and most mid-day and evening meals will be provided during the program. The program includes multiple excursions to other locations in the dry tropical forest ecosystem, including some overnight stays outside of Bahía de Caráquez.

Dates and Deadlines

TermYearPriority DeadlineDeadlineArrival DateDeparture Date
Priority Deadline
Arrival Date
Departure Date

Travel Advisories

For current health, safety, and travel advisory information, search the US Departmment of State country webpage.

Priority Discounts

If your program has a Priority Deadline, complete all pre-decision application materials by this date to receive a $100 credit toward your program fee. Please note, students participating in multiple summer programs are only eligible to receive the $100 credit once.

Note: this $100 discount does not apply to priority deadlines for SIT programs.

Course Equivalencies

Actual credit awarded is determined by the relevant department at your university in consultation with the study abroad office. Check with your study abroad advisor for more information.

UO students, please refer to the UO Course Equivalency Process and the UO Office of the Registrar Course Equivalency Database.