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WIU Anthropology Professor Heather McIlvaine-Newsad and Educational Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies Chair Gloria Delany-Barmann will be at a 3 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20 informational meeting, in Morgan Hall 320, to answer questions about the "¡WEPA! Puerto Rico" study-abroad course.
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"¡WEPA! Puerto Rico" Study Abroad Course Info. Meeting Oct. 20

October 13, 2014

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MACOMB, IL — A new study abroad course at Western Illinois University that pairs anthropology and educational leadership and interdisciplinary studies (EIS) will offer students unique insights into Puerto Rican culture next May. "¡WEPA! Puerto Rico" is a faculty-led course offered through the Western's Office of Study Abroad and Outreach and the Anthropology/Sociology and EIS departments. WIU Anthropology Professor Heather McIlvaine-Newsad and EIS Chair Gloria Delany-Barmann will lead the two-week course late next spring.

Both McIlvaine-Newsad and Delany-Barmann will be on hand at a 3 p.m. Monday, Oct. 20 informational meeting, in Morgan Hall 320, to answer questions about this study-abroad course. The travel dates for the course are May 19-June 1, 2015.

"Students who take the course will experience ecotourism firsthand, both as a tourist and anthropologist. Through the framework of cultural ecology, they will examine such topics as conservation, indigenous rights, sustainability and development and how these relate to the growth of nature-based tourism. Alongside the natural environment, students will learn how English and Spanish have influenced each other on the island during the last 100 years and the circumstances that brought English to Puerto Rico. The rich cultural and linguistic heritage of the island creates a unique sociolinguistic dynamic to study," McIlvaine-Newsad explained.

She noted the word "WEPA" is slang used throughout the Caribbean.

"It means 'cool,' 'alright,' 'congratulations' or 'good job!' You know you are in Puerto Rico when you hear this term," she added.

One of the unique things about the "¡WEPA! Puerto Rico" study abroad course is that students will be visiting with WIU alumna Sara Vazquez, who will be an integral part of the course design.

"Sara was one of our first anthropology majors at Western. She took courses with both Dr. Delany-Barman and me. Being from Puerto Rico, she was really interested in the American colonization of her island and how language and other cultures have influenced present day Puerto Rico. Sara is from a rural part of Puerto Rico and her family still farms. She had taken a couple of courses with me that focused on food production, and she decided to return to the island and start farming part of her family's farm organically," McIlvaine-Newsad said. "I think she is one of the best examples of a WIU graduate taking her education and putting it to work. She is currently involved in organic farming and active in the youth movement on the island that is pushing for social equality and economic sustainability through local agricultural production. I can't wait to introduce her to our current students. We will be vising her farm and she will be talking to our students about the local ecology and organic food movement on the island."

According to Delany-Barmann, the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico is full of history, culture and natural beauty. Students will visit the island of Vieques, Fajardo, the rainforests of El Yunque, Ponce, Arecibo and San Juan.

"Its citizens have a diverse heritage, speaking both English and Spanish as official languages. Although Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, many of its residents define themselves as Puerto Rican instead of American. The natural climate of the island is also different than the mainland United States, offering rain forests, deserts, caves and beaches all within its boundaries. Because of the many natural contrasts presented, Puerto Rico is ideally suited for the studies of sociolinguistics and cultural ecology," she added.

Western students who take the course for anthropology credit will register for the three credit-hour course ANTH 379 ("Anthropology of Tourism, Sustainability and the Environment"), while graduate students will register for ANTH 679 (also three credit hours). EIS students will register for the three-credit hour EIS 440 (G) ("Sociolinguistics"). Students enrolled in the course will receive Spring 2015 semester credit and will meet twice in Spring 2015.

According to McIlvaine-Newsad and Delany-Barmann, the course is open to any and all majors at WIU, and non-degree seeking students are also welcome to apply for the course.

Total enrollment for the course is 15 students, and eligibility requirements include:


  • Completed at least 12 semester hours
  • Minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) 2.5
  • In good standing with Student Judicial Programs


  • Accepted to a graduate degree program
  • Approval of graduate adviser and department chair/program director
  • In good standing with Student Judicial Programs

For more information, visit or contact McIlvaine-Newsad at (309) 298-1264 or via email at; Delany-Barmann at (309) 298-1183 or via email at; or Kim McDaniel (study abroad) at (309) 298-2504 or via email at

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