Students head to Nicaragua to explore economic development, poverty issues

Professor Steve Virgil, director of the Community Law and Business Clinic, will be teaching an interdisciplinary course in Nicaragua in January entitled Cross Disciplinary Professional Development. The course, also led by the university’s Center for Public Engagement, offers an opportunity to look at law in a comparative, interdisciplinary fashion, as well as the opportunity to experience a trip to Managua, Nicaragua, at the university’s newest international facility, Casa Dingledine.

Primarily focused on exploring the ethics of being a professional, the course will feature a comparative look at U.S. and Nicaraguan law by examining several issues in civil and criminal from both countries’ perspectives. Additionally, students will also work closely with NGOs based in Nicaragua on a project defined by the NGO, visit two colonial cities, and explore the dynamics of an emerging economy.

“Nicaragua is a wonderful country of immense natural beauty,” Virgil said.  ”The class spends time in two of the most scenic and engaging cities in Central America – Granada and Leon.  We also take time to explore Nicaragua’s history, and to recognize how closely that history is linked to the United States.”

The course should be of particular interest to students interested in a comparative law course, or who want to work on economic development or poverty issues, according to Virgil. The interdisciplinary nature of the program is facilitated by the over-lapping curriculum, and elements of the course taught by faculty from the School of Medicine as well as the School of Divinity.

The class is limited to 10 participants, and will run from Jan. 4-13 for two graded credits. Prior to the course, participating students will attend seven days of seminar and service work in Nicaragua.

“The class gives students a chance to think about the role they will play as professionals, particularly professionals in the United States where we can regularly expect to have resources to practice,” said Virgil, who is also the director of the Center for Public Engagement.  ”I find that students take a great deal from seeing another legal system, particularly one that is operating in an emerging economy where lawyers face a range of unexpected challenges.  The experience gives students a new way to see themselves and their profession.”

For more information, contact Virgil at