Socio-Economic Reality of Central America

An Experiential Liberal Arts Core Capstone Course


Instructor: Christine R. Schrage

Office: CBB 261

Telephone: 273-2126



Course description: This experiential course explores the socio-economic realities of Central America, integrating into that exploration the concepts learned and skills gained through the Liberal Arts Core. The course requires that students study the impact of culture on the working environment, gain an understanding of the social and economic condition of a particular country in Central America and explore how culture might impact that country’s economic status in the global economy. The experiential component requires that students live and work with citizens of the country, gaining a more personal view of the culture and sensitivity to the social-economic realities of the community.


Course level: 100 level (Junior or higher) The two credit course is limited to 14 students.


Course objectives:

  • Knowledge:

1)    Gain an understanding of dimensions upon which a culture might be defined.

2)   Gain an understanding of the impact of culture on the work environment.

3)   Gain general knowledge about the economic situation of a Central American country.

4)   Apply knowledge of cultural dimensions to a specific culture to acquire a deeper understanding of that culture and its social norms.

5)   Explore the ethical and social responsibilities of companies operating in less developed countries.

·        Skills:

1)    Utilize oral and written communication skills acquired through the liberal

     arts core.

2)   Use critical thinking skills to identify and evaluate the specific cultural dimensions that enhance or hinder the economic development of a specific country.

3)   Gain new language skills or enhance foreign language competency through immersion in a Spanish speaking environment.


Course resources:

  • Book- Riding the Waves of Culture, Understanding Diversity in Global Business By Fons Tromenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner
  • Instructor’s website- -http// –links to various informational websites concerning the region
  • Supplemental packet of current articles as provided by the instructor

1)     Central America

o   The Class System of Latin America, Chris Junker, 1994    

2)   Nicaragua

o   US Intervention in Nicaragua in the 80s, Chris Junker Schrage, 1994

o   CIA Fact Sheet

o   Beloved Enemies: Race & Nationalism in Nicaragua, Juliet Hooker, Latin American Research Review, Fall 2005, 40:3

3)   Globalization Challenges

o   The Global Compact’s Nine Principles, The Journal Corporate Citizenship, Autumn 2003

4)   Ethics and social Responsibility

o    Progress Against Corruption, Dan Johnson, The Futurist, March/April 2002


Graded Components:

       Pre-trip Paper       50 points

          Participation          50 points

          Journal                  50 points

          Presentation           50 points

          Final Paper            100 points


Your final grade will be based on the percentage of total points earned.








































lower than 59.9



Pre-trip Assignment -50 points

Each student shall choose one of the following subject areas to research. A five page double-spaced document is due at the April 16th orientation session. A topic must be chosen by the March 26th orientation session.  Each student will lead an informal discussion on the chosen topic during the in-country trip.  (No more than two students can choose the same topic area.)

·         Economic situation of Central America during the 20th century

·         Social challenges of Central America

·         Central American Free Trade Association (CAFTA) and its potential

     impact on the region

·         Role of religion in Central American society

·         Economic and social impact of maquillas and Free Trade Zones in Central America

·         U.S. Foreign Policy relative to Central America in the 20th century.

·         Economic challenges of Central America

·         Social-Entrepreneurship and its impact on solving social and economic problems in Central America


During the orientation on April 22, each student will share the essence of the pre-trip research paper and lead a group discussion.   Grading will include grammar/readability, quality of the written paper and information shared on the topic during the trip during planned discussion. 


This paper should be focused on the key points necessary for an executive or negotiator to learn issues and concepts that are critical knowledge for building a solid foundation for business in a particular region or nation.  Consider this paper to be a CNN Headline Report instead of a full-scale documentary project on the subject.  During the trip, each student will be the team “expert” on this particular topic and seek to increase the overall knowledge of the team by pointing out the relationships between the events/activities of the trip to the topic area.


Journal -50 points

Students will need a notebook for recording information and ideas generated from the speakers, discussions, and interactions with others.  The journals will be collected at the end of the trip and will be scored. The journals will be returned for students to utilize the material for the final written assignment.


      Grading criteria:

·        Quality of writing and organization of journal                       10 points

·        Summary of knowledge gained from speakers and reflections upon the perspectives of the speaker                                                  15 points

·        Summary of team discussions and reflections on the global, community, and personal impact of the issues discussed                                      10 points

·        Summary of daily activities and observations as to the relationship between culture, work environment, and the community                         15 points


Participation - 50 points


During quiet periods in the village and during travel time the group will have discussions concerning personal observations and issues from the day’s activities.  The participation grade is also based on the contribution of not only the planned discussions with speakers, but at the work site, during meals, and activities.


Final Paper (due May 31) 100 points


Global Perspective  20 pts

In what ways are countries affected by the various cultural dimensions studied in this course?

What organizational challenges are evident due to the frequent need for organizations/people to operate within a multi-cultural environment?

Local Perspective  25 pts

Consider the Trompenaar and Hons cultural dimensions revealed in the textbook and discuss how the community’s culture aligns with each one.

What aspects of the culture impact the economic development of the community or region visited?

Can communities like the one visited respond to the rapid changes of the global economy?  Why or why not?

Personal Perspective  30 pts

How will you utilize the exposure to the cultural dimensions studied in this course into the workplace and non-work activities?

In what ways might your personal values and approaches to decision making positively or negatively impact your ability to operate in a multi-cultural environment?

In developing countries such as Nicaragua, what level of social responsibility should companies adhere to?  What suggestions do you have for company responsibility that positively impacts the employees and community without creating a financial burden?

Grammar/Readability: 25 pts

This paper must be a well-written, well-organized paper.  Grammar errors (more than 6 per page) will significantly and negatively impact the score.


Presentation 50 points

Each student will present and lead a discussion on one chapter from the textbook, Riding the Waves of Culture.  The concept chosen for discussion must be related to the cultural environment of the municipalities and villages the team visited during the in-country experience.  Students will be scored based on the organizational quality, completeness, depth, and professionalism of the 10 minute oral presentation and discussion following each presentation.


Activities Schedule:


February 253 to 5 p.m. class meets for initial orientation. Immunizations need to start early. Students need to have passports at this time.


March 25– 3 to 5 p.m. class meets for orientation and completing all the necessary documentation. Pre-class topic must be chosen and provided to the instructor. Discuss materials from supplement, start discussions on chapters 1 to 5 from the book


April 15– 3 to 5 p.m. Pre-trip assignments due, informal discussion on the topics.


May 6 – 9 to noon, make final preparations for the trip.  Final orientation.


May 9 to 21 – trip to Nicaragua

·        Work on development projects with citizens;

·        Learn from speakers involved economic development in the Nicaragua;

·        Learn from speakers as to how the political past has affected the cultural development of the country;

·        Learn from and enjoy the experience of living and working in a developing country.


May 29  approximately– a minimum three hour session with the time to be determined later. Students MUST attend and be prepared to make their final presentation.


Travel expenses:


  • Travel costs including room and board, travel fees will be approximately $1100 per student.
  • Airfare is paid up front and cost $971 per person.  Those with CBA “Fly-Free” scholarships must turn in a receipt.  The scholarship funds will be applied by Financial Aid early in May. 


  • Tuition will be charged as with any other two credit course. This will be charged to your UBill.