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UNH cancels course’s trip to Nicaragua

Classwork during semester prepared students for two-week long trip

Contributing Writer

Published: Friday, March 1, 2013

Updated: Friday, March 1, 2013 12:03



Students and locals stand together for a picture on a previous trip to Nicaragua in 2012.

Three weeks into the semester, students walked into their study abroad course to learn that the class trip to Nicaragua, to take place at the conclusion of the class, had been canceled. 

International Service Learning in Nicaragua, course COMM 525, is offered through the College of Health and Human Services and spends the semester meeting once a week in the classroom. At the end of the semester, the class goes on a faculty-led, two-week trip to Nicaragua.

Professor Pamela Broido explains the trip works with the poor and on environmental projects, spending one week in Managua, the capitol of Nicaragua, and one week in the rural town of La Paz.      Each student stays with two families during the duration of the trip.

Senior Danielle Olean, who is currently enrolled in the class, said they were told that the trip has been canceled due to safety concerns. Interim Dean Neil Vroman of CHHS said via email the decision to cancel the trip was made on Feb. 6 after he had conversations with Broido and other unidentified people around the university. 

“There was insufficient time to assess and manage issues related to the risks associated with the Nicaraguan study away experience,” Vroman said. “There are very few study away experiences in the college; that said, I would characterize the situation this semester as atypical.”

UNH’s Registrar Office doesn’t track canceled faculty-led study abroad trips. The College of Liberal Arts offers the majority of faculty-led study abroad trips available through UNH. 

Lisa Mulvey, Study Abroad Coordinator for COLA, said that typically a study abroad trip will be canceled if the course fails to meet the minimum number of students required. The class can also be canceled if some students drop the course so it is unable to meet course costs. Different courses have a differing cost and require differing amounts of students.

Another reason that a trip could be canceled is if it was deemed to be too dangerous. Mulvey has been with COLA Study Abroad for just over two years and doesn’t know of any COLA Study Abroad trips that have been canceled for that reason. According to the State Department, there are no current travel warnings for Nicaragua.

Broido said the class has gone on 12 successful trips to Nicaragua since January of 2006. On past trips there have been a scorpion bite, respiratory issues, traveler’s diarrhea and rashes. Kyla Jones, a junior who took the course in the spring of 2012 and went on the trip that June, recalls one person falling off a wagon and cutting her knee, requiring a Band-Aid.

The class stays on a property with a nurse and surgical technician. Two teaching assistants accompany the class on the trip, as well. Broido brings a first aid kit, and both TAs are trained in basic first aid. While on the trip, there is a curfew and no drinking.  

“I do everything within my power to mitigate risk,” Broido said.  

Broido explained that the trip is done through Compas de Nicaragua, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that coordinates study abroad trips to Nicaragua for universities, high schools, churches and private organizations. 

They have been in business for 22 years.

Olean said that the class prepares students for the trip, and doesn’t have much relevance without the trip. She explained that the trip to Nicaragua is the most valuable learning experience of the course and the classes during the semester prepare students for the trip. She hates to see a program like this vanish, she said. 

“Value is not being placed on (the course),” Olean said.  

Jones also said that the trip is necessary for the class. She said the course was practical application of what they would be doing on the trip, where they would be going and what to expect for the trip.  

Actually going there, seeing the poverty, seeing how the people there live and seeing how happy they are was part of the experience.           It “opened up everyone’s eyes,” Jones said. The trip was “awesome, life changing – it was a hidden gem that wasn’t advertised.”

Broido said that International Service Learning in Nicaragua is a four-credit course. At UNH, four-credit courses require a total of 40 hours per semester. COMM 525 was on track for a total of 20 hours in the classroom, while the trip would account for the remaining 20 hours. 

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Paul K. Haeder
Wed Mar 27 2013 10:39
We need more trips abroad and into countries in our Hemisphere, not fewer. We need tougher students seeing the world as it is, not through mass-media rose tinted glasses. We need faculty like Broido who dedicate their lives to students and continuing education. Her efforts should be rewarded, not penalized.

This is a watershed decade for students, PK12 and higher ed, to take action and stand down wrongheaded administrators. Your lives cannot be dictated by insurance companies and administrators who are running colleges to make money for their own breed of species. The Fall of the Faculty is a good book to read on why the deans and administrators have taken over, wrongly, education. For faculty wanting to organize contingents, go to the website of the New Faculty Majority. Also, Reclaiming the Ivory TOwer is a good book by Joe Berry on how to organize.

But students, what is worth fighting for? Valuable hands-on experience in Nica or Mejico or other parts of Latin America, or some stale classroom in New Hampshire? Fight for us, your contingent teachers. We have been marginalized and abused over three hard decades. We are the majority in all of the thousands of colleges and universities across this land. That's 70-75 percent of all faculty are adjunct and contingent. That means, we can be fired -- our classes not renewed -- with the sweat from a huffy ADMIN gal or guy and the swipe of their pen.

We have, or will have by 2015, over 3 million men and women as veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. TBI, PTSD, and, yes, disabilities, including sight and hearing. We need more ASL-trained and more community service experienced people in our society, not less. Again, climate change, regional food shortages, poverty, and our own country's creeping -- like slime mold -- economic injustice, poverty and rotting education, these are issues you learn about in the field.

Starts a petition and have it delivered to UNH provost, president, deans and the regents or board overseeing education. Have your parents and siblings sign it. Get this going.

Best, Paul Haeder
faculty, English -- Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington and other parts around this hemisphere

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