By Andrea Bennett
Twelve USC Rossier EdD students will travel to Costa Rica in June to study the impact of globalization and multinational corporations on education in that country. It will be the first time that doctoral students will use an international study tour to research a group dissertation with assistance from that country’s leadership.
Through a mix of ingenuity and serendipity, the students found some impressive advocates for their study, including a former President of the country and the current Minister of Education.
A literature review of the Costa Rican economy led them to a highly-cited economist at UC Berkeley, Dr. Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, who introduced them to the country’s leaders in education and economic growth, including his father, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, president of Costa Rica from 1998 to 2002. As a result, the students gained access to the country’s most powerful leaders for their study.
Four of the students – Oryla Wiedoeft, Sebastian Puccio, Felipe Martinez, and Sam McVey – travelled to meet with their contacts this month in preparation for the research trip. They dined with Rodriguez, met with Gabriella Llobet, director of CINDE, Costa Rica’s National Investment Promotion Agency responsible for bringing in high-tech multinational corporations like Intel, IBM and HP, and Minister of Education Leonardo Garnier Rímolo, as well as the dean of the University of Costa Rica and a number of business, education and policy leaders.
“It was probably one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had at USC so far,” said Michael Escalante, who chairs the dissertation group and attended the exploratory trip along with his students. “I got to watch my students interact at the highest levels, and question world leaders about economics, schools, and the future of Costa Rica. It really is taking international study to a different level.”
Global study tours are part of the curriculum for every doctoral student at Rossier, but until now, no tour had been directly linked to dissertation research.
The students are particularly interested in Intel Corporation, which came into the country in 1996 and is continuing to support the country’s national goals of shifting exports from primarily bananas and coffee to technology-based products. With the shift, schools in Costa Rica, which already boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world, are now working to prepare students with 21st century skills in preparation for knowledge-based jobs.
Intel has invested in a number of primary, secondary, and vocational schools, and universities in the San Jose area with the goal of developing a highly-skilled labor force that will support production and research and development at Intel. Rossier dissertation students will look at these schools, as well as how globalization impacts the way teachers are prepared at the University of Costa Rica.
“It’s fascinating to look at another country that is taking on the same challenges as we are to compete globally, drive the economy, and get the education system where it needs to be. The parallels have been eye-opening,” said Wiedoeft. “We can forget that many other countries are aggressively and strategically moving forward. It’s a wake-up call for U.S. K-12 educators to make sure our kids come out on the cutting edge.”
Costa Rican leaders embraced the USC group’s research project, which will be the first of its kind for the country. The former president invited the group to his home when they return in June.
Given the overwhelming reception so far, Escalante said he plans to lead a second dissertation group to Costa Rica next year for a follow-up study.
“How often do students in a doctoral program get the chance to do an international study where the country’s leaders are anxiously waiting to see our results?” Escalante said. “It is an amazing experience.”