Online students will study sustainability from a sociology perspective – and experience innovative sustainability practices first-hand through on-site study in Costa Rica.

What effect does environmental degradation have on local communities?

How do you produce enough food to sustain humanity?

Why do so many racial and ethnic minorities and the poor live in places that are detrimental to their health?

How can people live in harmony with the environment while having access to modern conveniences?

According to Dr. Patricia Campion, Saint Leo University associate professor of global studies and sociology, questions such as these illustrate that the issue of sustainability is more than solely an environmental one.

"Sustainability and balancing human needs without degrading the natural world is clearly one of the most pressing challenges of our time," she says. With social, cultural, political, and economic obstacles and challenges to overcome to make human activities more sustainable, Dr. Campion says it is also one of the most complex issues, requiring the contributions of multiple disciplines – including sociology.

According to Dr. Campion, because sociologists study society and social behavior in an effort to help create change, they are able to examine these highly relevant sustainability questions and bring important perspective to the global discussion.

It's that relevance about the topic of sustainability that excites Dr. Campion – who also serves as director of the university's Global Studies program – and is why she is looking forward to teaching Saint Leo's newest course in the online sociology degree program, Exploring Sustainability (SOC 300).

Experiencing sustainable practices in action in Costa Rica

The three-credit course will be offered for the first time online during the Spring 2 term* and includes on-site learning about innovative, leading sustainability strategies in Costa Rica.

"Students will explore sustainability issues in a variety of areas of human activity – agriculture, energy, transportation, industry and tourism," says Dr. Campion. "And then they will examine examples of sustainable practices and strategies first-hand in Costa Rica."

Not to be confused with a SERVE or MBA program trips to Costa Rica, the Exploring Sustainability trip will take place March 12-19 and is open to students in other online degree programs and in on-ground programs, as well as faculty, alumni, staff and friends. Students do not need to be enrolled in the course to participate in the trip.

"The course is ideal for sociology students as well as anyone interested in global environmental issues or learning about alternative business models and different ways of achieving development," says Dr. Campion.

In addition to the trip to Costa Rica, the course will include a synchronous learning portion in which students will be able to become acquainted with each other via weekly Blackboard Collaborate meetings.

Agenda in Costa Rica: site visits and expert lectures

Hosted by the Center for Tropical Agriculture Research and Higher Education (CATIE), in Costa Rica, the weeklong study trip includes lectures on topics such as agroecology, sustainable agricultural systems, sustainable tourism and biodiversity. Site visits to organic farms producing coffee, sugar cane and cheese, an ecotourism project, botanical gardens, in addition to Poás Volcano National Park, The Guayabo Archeological Monument and the capital city of San José are included.

The estimated cost per person, including transportation, accommodations, meals and visits in Costa Rica is $1,700 (subject to change depending on airfare).

Online information session Sept. 22

Dr. Campion will conduct an online information session for students interested in the new online sociology degree program course, including details about the trip, on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. (DST). She will discuss the agenda as well as procedures for registration and payment.

To join the meeting, click on the following link:

The meeting will be recorded, and available from Dr. Campion ( upon request to students who are not able to attend the live session.

*Exploring Sustainability is also being offered on-ground at University Campus during the Spring 2016 semester.

 For additional information, contact Dr. Patricia Campion, director of Global Studies, at (352) 588-8352 or

Image credits: Romolo Tavani on and courtesy Dr. Campion