15-Credit Field Study Semester (Winter term)
The Panama Field Study Semester (PFSS) is a joint venture between McGill University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Students are given the opportunity to earn 15 credits during the Winter term (January to April) through courses that specifically address issues relevant to the understanding of the Latin America tropical environment. Students will be living in a tropical environment for up to four months.
Enrolment will be limited to 26 McGill students due to housing capacity. The courses are also being made available to three or four Panamanian students from local public universities. Courses are taught in English, however, Spanish is essential for communicating while in Panama.
For information on travel and tropical medicine go to:
- HISP 218 Spanish Lang Intens-Elem or HISP 210 Spanish Language:Beginners or equivalent proficiency;
- MATH 203 Principles of Statistics 1 or equivalent;
- CGPA of 3.0 and higher is recommended. The program is aimed at 400-level (final year undergraduate) students.
Upon arrival in Panama, there is a one to two-day transition period followed by 13 weeks of courses. Field trips are integrated into each of the courses offered. The lecture courses each consist of contact hours organized over a four-week period as follows:
- At least 8 hours per week of lectures;
- At least 10 hours per week in the field or laboratory.
Students are expected to devote two days per week to their internship. Students are also expected to give one oral presentation to their peers, as well as, a formal presentation of their projects at an internship symposium with representatives from the host organizations.
Today's major environmental problems often have impacts on a global scale. The notion of global environment, one planet shared by all human beings is increasingly powerful. Some claim that with globalization, environmental concerns cannot be understood from a strictly regional perspective. Others warn against the "insidious consequences of westernization" as globalism is being promoted. Central roles of universities are to foster new ideas and provide critical thinking in order to have informed citizens. Thus, universities should play a major role in general education. The program presented here attempts to achieve a specific educational goal. We, as North American citizens, view the environmental "problems" of the world through our western eyes. People from other countries will have a very different assessment of important environmental issues. By bringing our students in contact with another reality, we will help them build a new, more pluralist vision of the world's environment. We will thus help prepare them to play a positive role in tomorrow's society.
This teaching program brings together students and professors with different backgrounds/interests. It provides a unique opportunity to experience the challenges of achieving transdisciplinarity in order to understand real environmental problems. Whether in preparation for graduate school or for employment purposes, involvement in this program will assist any participating student in future work related to tropical environments. Understanding of and acclimation to an environment as different as Canada to the Panamanian ecosystem is difficult. In situ experience will greatly improve performance of our graduates in their future undertakings.