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Conflict Resolution students get hands-on experience with Ecuador trip

Trip was culmination of Global Practicum course

For two weeks in June 2017, a group of conflict resolution students put their knowledge to the test in Ecuador.

The students were part of the doctoral Global Practicum course taught by Associate Professor Elena Bastidas, Ph.D., of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences’ Department of Conflict Resolution Studies.

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“What we use is basically a learning environment where the students experience specific situations, and after they are immersed in the culture, they can start looking at the specific theory, and use the conflict resolution tools they’ve learned in other courses,” Bastidas said.


Bastidas said the trip had students examining three case studies in different parts of the country. The first was over drilling in the Amazon and issues related to the environment, including dealing with non-contacted indigenous tribes. The second involved a Canadian mining company and its efforts to take care of the environment around the area where it operates. The third examined the southern village of Vilcabamba, popularly known as the “Valley of Longevity” for its long-lived residents, which has attracted many outsiders and created conflicts with local residents.

As a native of Ecuador, Bastidas said she already has a network of people that she works with, which makes planning the logistics for such a complicated trip easier. The country also has a lot to offer the visiting students.

“They get to see the diversity of the country from the north to the south,” Bastidas said. “It’s a small country, but there’s so much diversity, and they can see the different problems that arise.”

The trip began with four days in Quito, the capital city, where guest speakers provided the students with context and background about the country. Students wrote daily journals about their time in the field. To help process their experiences, students wrote papers on the case studies before the trip ended.

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Darnella McGuire, an online student from Washington, D.C., signed up for the course because it looked like a good opportunity to earn some global experience. McGuire said she has traveled extensively, but the practicum was her first time visiting Ecuador.

McGuire said the trip illustrated the common challenges that people face in different countries.

“There are a lot of challenges we face in conflict situation here domestically that people are going through globally,” she said.

She said the trip also taught her new interview skills for collecting qualitative data before actually taking the qualitative analysis course.

“It was a prelude to understanding what I’m taking now. I see the correlation, and I like how Dr. Bastidas integrated it. It’s all coming to light now. I see the connection because I’ve had that experience,” McGuire said.

Ecuador Ecuador

Calvin Bradley, an online student from Greenville, N.C., said he wanted to take the trip because of his interest in community development and engagement. Bradley said the most interesting part of the trip was the visit to Vilcabamba, where he saw the impact of the newcomers moving in.

“You see the effects of immigration and pick up on things that might be a problem,” he said.

Bradley said the mining case study also illustrated how the Canadian company was researching the negative aspects of mining on the environment and taking social responsibility to help develop a sustainable economy.

“It shows that you can’t always go by what things seem like on the surface,” he said.

For Jennifer Lawer, who takes classes at the Fort Lauderdale/Davie Campus, the trip allowed her to meet fellow students and create bonds with them. Lawer said she had previously visited Mexico, Belize, and Colombia, but it was her first time in Ecuador. One of the highlights of her time was interacting with the seniors in Vilcabamba, due in part to her interest in social gerontology.

“They’re contagiously happy people,” she said. “They take the time to appreciate things.”

Lawer said the course is a valuable learning experience for conflict resolution students, if they go into it with the right attitude, stay open-minded, and have no expectations.

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