Panama 2015 Summer for Development Undergraduate Study Abroad Program

The Payson Center has designed a topical, three week, Summer study abroad program designed specifically for undergraduates who are interested in learning more about Geographic Information Systems (GIS), smartphones and open-source software technologies supporting development projects throughout the world. The Summer for Development program offers the unique opportunity to complete a three (3) credit summer course while also gaining field experience.

Whether you are working in Public Health, Community Development, Environmental Sciences, Law, Urban Planning or Disaster Management, it would be hard to find an initiative that does not call for data collection and analysis, for convenient tools for monitoring and evaluating impact or for some effective way to display your findings. However, work and research conditions in the developing world are such that international development professionals often need to adapt the technology they are using . . . this course proposes to teach you how to develop these skills in an applied, real-life setting. This is a great way to take GIS out of the laboratory and into the field.


May 18, 2015 to June 6, 2015


Nestled among verdant coffee plantations at the foot of an ancient volcano chain, you will learn how to use technologies supporting study design all the way to final map production. The town of Boquete, Panama, located about six hours from Panama City, is a favorite retirement destination for U.S. citizens and boasts many services and cultural amenities. You will conduct research projects in the surrounding communities.

While in Panama City, you will meet with professionals from local and international organizations taking advantage of the city’s role as the United Nations hub for Latin America and the Caribbean. You will also explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods and use its historic “Casco Viejo” as a playground for data collection and mapping exercises.

Practically traversing from one end of the Panamanian isthmus to the other, students will enjoy ample opportunity to practice their language skills and increase their sensibility to multicultural urban and rural environments. Field trips to swim in the blue-green Caribbean waters of the Boca del Toros archipelago, and to trek to the peak of the active Volcán Báru and an optional week end visit to bordering Costa Rica will complete this international experience with recreational activities.


The course offered is called  Geography, Technology and Development and will introduce you to open-source mapping (Quantam GIS, Google Earth) and and cellphone-based data collection software, and to the survey, analysis and data display skills you will need to produce accurate and powerful information about any issue that interests you.

The “in class” portion of the course will last three weeks (May 18 – June 6, 2014) for five days a week, with at least 3 hours of class per day. Many of these class sessions will include field visits (travel time will not count as classroom time.)

Course Format

Each day of class will typically include:

  • An introductory lecture covering Geographic Information Systems (GIS) theory and explore open-source technologies for project design, data collection and visualization.
  • Case studies drawn from IDEV literature and the experience of the course instructors and guest lecturers.
  • In class review and discussion of pre-assigned readings
  • Work groups presentations and discussion


The course will capitalize on the scholarly expertise and practical involvement of its instructors in International Development (IDEV) projects focusing on data collection and analysis

Julie Hernandez

Dr. Julie Hernandez is an urban geographer, community development and GIS for public health expert, with sustained field experience in environmentally vulnerable cities, from New Orleans to Kinshasa and Mexico City.

Dr. Nanette Svenson helped establish the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Centre for Latin American and Caribbean in Panama and worked there for four years in charge of research and knowledge management. She co-founded Pro Artesana, Panama’s first NGO dedicated to developing capacity for national artisans. She has lived in Panama City for the last 18 years.

Travel, Lodging, Meals & Local Transportation


Students will be responsible for their own airfare to Tocumen International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen) (PTY).  We will arrange pick-up and transfer to the course site for you once we have received your travel/flight information. Please check the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding travel.


Accomodations are being finalized and information will be posted as soon as available.




  • Tuition (3 credits)
  • HTH insurance
  • Accommodations
  • Coffee breaks and some meals
  • Local public transportation
  • Class field trips

Not Included

  • Airfare
  • Passport & visa fees
  • Comprehensive medical & emergency insurance
  • Telephone calls (send/receive)
  • Meals not specified
  • Transportation other than specified
  • Personal travel
  • Course books & materials


An online application with instructions is open on the Tulane University Office of Study Abroad Website. Application deadline is March 11, 2015; we will continue to accept applications until the program is full. 


Subscribe to our Summer for Development mailing list to receive further communications about the program.

Would you like to receive our eNewsletter?

Delivered to your inbox every two weeks, The Monitor covers a wide variety of topics – from profiles of our researchers, faculty, staff and students, to in-depth looks at some of our projects, as well as new academic programming and initiatives. View the archive...

Subscribe to The Monitor