Psychology Students Take Cross-Cultural Research Trip to Costa Rica

BETHANY, OK (May 13, 2013) - Is Costa Rica the happiest place on earth? SNU psychology students to travel to Costa Rica next week to begin research on that question. 

Over the Spring semester sixteen students, two professors, and a graduate student have studied happiness and psychological well-being as part of a special topics course on psychological well-being and cross-cultural research. Over the first half of the course, the students became familiar with some of the basic psychological research on happiness and psychological well-being and participated in activities designed to enhance happiness or psychological well-being. The second half of the course required students to complete research on the subject. Students conducted interviews with students, faculty, and staff identified as “happy” by peers on the campus of SNU as part of the SNU Happiness Exemplar research project. Students also collected survey data on happiness/psychological well-being in public spaces around Oklahoma City. The class will culminate by spending two weeks in Costa Rica gathering data on happiness and psychological well-being. 

“The trip is attempting to serve three purposes", explained Dr. Ron Wright, professor and trip leader. “First, we want to get students excited about research. The best way to accomplish that is by having them participate in real world research with which they can begin to connect and within which they find value. What began as an academic enterprise around happiness and psychological well-being has now become something each of the students are noticing in their own lives and the lives of others. Beginning the process here in Oklahoma City gives students a background and data on which to reflect, to compare, and to analyze as we gather data throughout Costa Rica. Second, we want to expose students to a cross-cultural experience. There is something very important about travel and cross-cultural experiences for a liberal arts education. Travel helps to expand students’ horizons, to enrich their understanding of the world, to deepen empathy and hospitality for others, and to reflect on the role of culture in their own lives. Third, we want to continue the development of mentoring relationships in the lives of students. There is something wonderful that happens when faculty and students travel, research, and live in community together. I have found that not only is it a powerful educational experience for the students, but that I am broadened and deepened in what I learn through the conversations and relationships with the students.” 

The dates of the trip are May 13 – May 26 and the itinerary includes travel to San Jose, which is the capitol of Costa Rica; Limon, which is on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica; SNU’s Quetzal Education Research Center (QERC), which is situated within the tropical cloud forest in San Gerardo de Dota; and Manuel Antonio, which is on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The students will be conducting interviews on happiness and psychological well-being with Nicaraguan immigrants in La Carpio and with rural Costa Ricans in San Gerardo de Dota as well as gathering survey data in public spaces in San Jose, Grecia, and Limon. There may be a beach and a volcano tour involved too! You can follow the adventures of this trip to Costa Rica @

Southern Nazarene University's mission is to transform lives through higher education in Christ-centered community. As a Christian community of scholars, we model the hospitality of grace, the pursuit of truth and the practice of discipleship, all within the Wesleyan-holiness tradition, as we prepare graduates who THINK with clarity, ACT with integrity and SERVE with purpose.