International Service-Learning Course Takes MSU Students to Peru

Service-Learning Program and Anthropology Professor Katherine McCaffrey team up to teach sustainable development and social change in Peru.

International Service-Learning Course Goes to Vicos, Peru

This summer, Montclair State University students enrolled in the study abroad course "Peru: Sustainable Development and Social Change," will travel to the spectacular Andean Mountain village of Vicos, Peru to learn firsthand about ecological conservation and community development. Through direct service to local communities, students will be working with grassroots organizations in Peru to promote sustainable development that draws on deep-rooted indigenous traditions and modern development practices.

Dr. Katherine McCaffrey, Associate Professor of Anthropology, and the Service-Learning and Community Engagement program at Montclair State have worked together to develop a course that implements a core service-learning experience, as well as classroom instruction and online coursework. The online coursework begins on June 13, 2011, in which students will complete a series of background readings and online discussions on Peru, Andean culture and the Vicos experiment. They will participate in a local Habitat for Humanities project as preparation for their learning adventure in Peru, which will run from July 6 - July 27, 2011.  On return from their trip, their experience will culminate by engaging in reflective writing assignments.

Sustainable Development in Vicos, Peru

The program explores sustainable development in the Peruvian Andes, an area of great cultural and biological diversity.  In the 1950s and 1960s, Vicos became an international showcase for efforts to bring modernization and rural development to the indigenous highlands. The Vicos development project, which became the most well-known applied anthropology project in Latin America, was an example of the Green Revolution development paradigm of the 1950's and 60's.  Students will learn the rich history of this ambitious project, its successes and failures, and its Peruvian social, political, and economic context.

Today, local grassroots organizations in Vicos promote sustainable development by emphasizing community involvement and respect for indigenous knowledge.  Service-Learning students will meet with community experts to learn about existing challenges and opportunities to the development of the region in a responsible, effective, and just way. We will partner with a local NGO working on the frontlines of sustainability to complete a community service project.


As part of this program students will:

  • Meet with The Mountain Institute (TMI) which is developing a comprehensive community- based project in the Huascaran Biosphere Reserve. Through pilot projects, TMI aims to demonstrate the potential to diversify local livelihoods through community-based tourism and protection of biodiversity hotspots.
  • Meet with Urpichallay, an Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) working to revive Andean culture and to build sustainable peasant communities in the highland region.
  • experience the Andean mountain culture through homestays with local families in Andean communities. Students will participate in daily (farming) activities of the host family (ranging from potato harvesting to bread making) and learn about local practices and traditions.
  • work with Urpichallay on building improved kitchens or teaching English classes in rural schools.
To learn more about this program, and other service-learning and community engagement opportunities for your classroom or organization, please contact Bryan Murdock, Director, at or call 973-655-6831.