Social Justice in Hispaniola study abroad course


Course Description: This course will be taught on the island of Hispaniola and will focus on the country of the Dominican Republic. During this Study Abroad experience students will explore issues and histories in Latin America related to social justice. Evolving over the last two decades, there has been a rising tide of responses by everyday citizens in Latin America to problems related to income disparity, violence, corruption, education reform, public health, revolutionary movements, globalization, and neoliberal policies. The legacy of Liberation Theology (post-1962) has prompted citizens to reflect on their lives in relation to powers above and to consider action. Social Justice offers us a lens in which to understand the nexus of lived experience and the challenges of making a just world. This class offers students an opportunity to think about the context of history in relation to lived experience and how individuals and communities negotiate from below and within. Readings and discussions will revolve around historical narratives, local voices, gendered histories and constructions of race and class.

Course Goals: Students will gain a depth of knowledge in the history of Hispaniola within a cultural context: readings and lectures will broaden student’s understanding of the island and the historical friction between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, as well as the specific history of the Dominican Republic which involves colonial legacies, US involvement impact and dictatorship. Students will be introduced to issues of social justice by witnessing it first hand in the country. Students will visit communities and talk with locals about current issues. Students will gain knowledge from our companion courses. Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  1. Articulate a broad history of the island of Hispaniola.
  2. Identify specific social justice issues within the Dominican Republic that is sensitive to and inclusive to local viewpoints.
  3. Understand how to incorporate a sensible grounding in recent history to craft interview questions.
  4. Accurately discuss local responses to social justice issues within the Dominican Republic.
  5. Engage with local communities in the production of their course projects.
  6. Learn how to use a multimedia website for the sharing of documents and projects required of the course.


Companion Course:

HIST338 Social Justice in Latin America: Hispaniola (3 credits)

SPAN 430/LALS299 (3 credits)


This faculty-led short-term study abroad course introduces students to public health in the Dominican Republic in the context of Hispaniola’s history, people and specific social determinants. The course will explore the infrastructure and delivery of health care and health issues specific to the Dominican Republic, as they interact with historical structures of inequity, poverty and marginalization. In coordination with companion class HIST338, students will evaluate the social justice ramifications of the convergence of social and biological impacts on health.

The course will be taught on the island of Hispaniola, with visits to significant historical and cultural sites and a variety of distinct health care settings. We’ll also complete a concentration of work with community members, leaders, health promoters, healthcare workers, educators and students in Restauracion. The community of Restauracion is situated in the second poorest province in the Dominican Republic, just 12 KM from the border with Haiti, with a complex past and present relationship with their Haitian neighbors. There are five clinics in the vicinity that rely on the public health system, but funding is insufficient. Large micro-communities of undocumented citizens of Haitian decent lack any access to health care or preventative education.

We connect with FIMRC to help with so much of our our work, as well as local leaders. The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) operates a clinic and public health support system in Restauracion with a dedication to addressing the needs of the community. FIMRC will provide the infrastructure to our public health service in Restauracion, and this access will provide a critical link between our classroom learning and engagement with real-world public health

Learning Objectives:

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:


-Connect historical events to structures affecting health in the Dominican Republic

-Participate in global health service, and communicate experience in writing

-Work together in an interdisciplinary team

-Engage with cultural differences, both within the country and between themselves

-Demonstrate an understanding of the lived experience in DR

-Illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of global public health

-Identify social and biological factors related to health and disease in the DR

-Describe the organization of the DR’s health systems and its evolution

-Apply the public health approach (problem, cause, intervention, implementation) to a new public health problem

-Explain how Public health efforts can utilize health information/communication to improve population health

-Systematize information collected during service in a written analysis.

-Integrate the multi-directional links between health, social and economic factors     in the Dominican Republic


Class Participation: Each student is expected to contribute to class discussions and to fully participate in activities, workshops, and presentations in the communities. This is a rigorous course that is reading, writing and experience-intensive. Expect to spend time preparing for, and reflecting on, the events of each day.


Rooted in experiential learning as we work in communities, we practice Fair Trade Learning and teach in situ so that students are within an arms reach of history and culture in a living classroom.



Experiential Learning

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