Faculty Spotlight: Blanca Alvarado is Set to Sabbatical in the “Happiest Country”

The Teaching & Learning Excellence Division (TLED) highlights faculty successes in and out of the classroom as often as possible to celebrate #ACCexcellence. This month Courtney Grams interviewed Dr. Blanca Alvarado. See a summary of their conversation below.

Striving for happiness and harmony might seem like a tall order in this day and age, but faculty member Dr. Blanca Alvarado sees how that sort of lifestyle is within her grasp and wants her students to see it too.

Blanca starts out each class period by asking her students to share with each other how they have grown their wellbeing since the last class meeting. This simple routine of shared connection demonstrates to her Sociology and Social Work students that their wellbeing must come first. Social Work bears an immense sense of responsibility to the poor and social issues at large and Blanca feels that it’s a “disservice to talk about what’s happening without building wellbeing right now and knowing how to take care of yourself.” This exercise has built strong communities in her classrooms and she’s had great success with maintaining high attendance rates because students continue to care about showing up for one another.

Blanca has been awarded a Scholar Fulbright Grant to teach at the University of Costa Rica (UCR). She is inspired by Costa Rica’s demilitarization (1949) and “happiest country” designation and wants to cultivate a similar way of living. Fulbright awards only two grants each year for Costa Rica.

In Spring 2019, Blanca and her 5-year-old daughter, Maya, will move to Costa Rica. She is excited to continue to challenge herself in a fun and creative way to reduce her carbon footprint, visit community-based non-profit organizations working with the poor, and most of all share this experience with her child and the ACC community when she returns.

“I was originally concerned that as a single parent I couldn’t even consider a Fulbright. Then I was inspired by Dr. Sam

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Blanca & Maya

Echevarria-Cruz’s Fulbright Award and his decision to travel to Romania with his five children and wife. I realized I had the freedom of coordinating fewer schedules and the benefit of giving this experience to my child as well – so I went for it.”

Blanca has an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in both Sociology and Social Work. She will be teaching Social Work at the University of Costa Rica and will also be making close connections with their Sociology department. Blanca will return to ACC (her home institution of 11 years) with new ideas and perspectives on national and global peace, international social work practice, and collaborative service-based learning partnerships that she can infuse into her courses. Her plan is to develop case studies that she can share with her colleagues and devote more energy and knowledge to ACC’s Peace & Conflict Studies.

In Social Work, you have the opportunity to contribute anywhere from an individualistic level to a more global policy level. You have to be committed, engaged, and informed of everything going on around you. Above all, Blanca believes that “if you can be anything, be kind. It’s free!” There will be kindness all around on this sabbatical – for Blanca, for Maya, for Costa Rica, and for ACC.

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