Custom Programs

HECUA specializes in an experiential, learner-centered approach that connects students, faculty, and institutions of higher education with communities. In addition to its regularly scheduled academic programs that are open to all students, HECUA can provide programming at its domestic and international sites to individual institutions on a contract basis. HECUA program faculty are available to co-develop curriculum around a variety of topics to suit a diverse range of campus curricular needs. Program structures range from short-term embedded programs to full-fledged immersions in January, May, or summer terms. In addition to credit-bearing coursework, HECUA provides workshops and training related to community-based and experiential education, poverty and social justice, and the place of the arts in social change.

Custom Program Types

  • Leadership and student development training.
  • A one- to two-week experience at a HECUA site as part of a course on your campus.
  • A complete short-term program during January, May or summer term.

Examples of custom programs recently developed for HECUA consortium institutions:

1.) “Global Search for Justice” Capstone Course, three-week program in Ecuador, embedded in a semester course on campus, St. Catherine University St. Catherine University has offered a field experience at HECUA’s Ecuador site co-taught by St. Catherine faculty and HECUA’s Ecuadorian teaching staff. The course enables students to fulfill a core requirement by looking at social, political, and economic issues related to women and work in a non-U.S. context. At the same time, St. Catherine’s non-traditional students gain a short-term study abroad option that fits with their needs. The college has contracted with HECUA numerous times using this model and has plans for additional programs. 2.) Program “Political, Social, and Economic Dynamics in Today’s Ecuador: A Model for Interdisciplinary Programming in Latin American Studies,” Viterbo University HECUA staff delivered a 12-day interdisciplinary program to a group of Viterbo faculty who wanted a model of international programming for a new Spanish minor they were developing on the Viterbo campus. The thematic aim was to look at the roles of civil society and historically marginalized or nontraditional actors in Ecuador’s economic and political development. Students examined and engaged with indigenous groups, women’s-rights organizations, and environmental movements. Visits to public health facilities were also arranged for participating health care faculty. 3.) Program “From Cod to Crude: International Business in Norway,” University of Minnesota HECUA staff designed, and HECUA and University of Minnesota faculty co-taught, a 23-day program on the impacts of Norway’s modernization and rapid economic growth over the last 40 years. Particular emphasis was placed on Norway’s social welfare model, the continuing place of traditional industries in the Norwegian culture and economy, and the large-scale extraction of oil from the North Sea. The program also explored the tensions between oil extraction and concerns about environmental stewardship. Students were based at HECUA’s site of activity in Oslo and took side trips several other Norwegian cities.

HECUA program sites and topics:


South American country with a large indigenous population that is gaining political power, a diverse natural environment, and a history of community participation. Strongly affected by the long war in Colombia, the economics of global trade, and the politics of oil extraction. Topics: Community participation, social movements, gender issues, globalization, indigenous peoples’ movements, Afro-Ecuadorian communities, international development, oil extraction and environmental justice, and human rights.


HECUA’s partner site is a working farm and winery, based on a seventeenth-century castle estate in a town of 20,000 less than an hour from Florence. The Tuscany region of Italy possesses an international tourist “brand” that celebrates medieval and Renaissance art and architecture, gorgeous landscapes, and high-quality food and wine. What’s less known are the many individuals and communities in Tuscany revitalizing the rural and urban production of food with creative and innovative techniques, and building new food systems for a sustainable future. Topics: The intersection of culture and food, sustainable agriculture, food systems, organic agriculture, food tourism and agritourism, the economics of food production in the European Union, food policy in the E.U.

Minneapolis/St. Paul

Urban community with a history of progressive and liberal politics including support for community organizing, the arts, and environmental issues. Home to a vibrant arts community, extensive nonprofit sector, as well as some of the largest communities of Asian, African, and Latino immigrants in the United States. The region’s vitality and emerging diversity make it an ideal context for the study of issues facing our nation’s urban centers. Topics: Experiential pedagogy, design of learner-centered programs, civic engagement, organizing and advocacy, the arts and social change, human rights, gender issues, ethnicity, education and inequality, environmental justice, urban agriculture, and community building by and for communities of color, immigrant communities, and people in poverty.

New Zealand

Geographically isolated in the southwest Pacific ocean, a post-colonial nation with an ongoing process of truth and reconciliation between European heritage and Māori heritage New Zealanders. Compact, dense cities, stunning rural and protected landscapes. The country wrestles with the contradiction between its “green and clean” national image of hyper eco-awareness and its reliance on global trade and polluting industries like dairy production and mining. Topics: Māori perspectives, pluralism, sustainability frameworks, climate change, environmental policy, local environmental initiatives, colonization, truth and reconciliation.

Northern Ireland

Part of the United Kingdom, a region with a history of violent conflict working to overcome centuries of division to build a sustainable democracy. Topics: Conflict transformation, education systems in a post-conflict society, social movements, human rights, gender issues, national identity and community building, roles in and relationships with the E.U. and the rest of the UK.


Scandinavian country with a solid tradition of grassroots citizen participation and state support of health care, education, and economic security. Innovative approaches to environmental sustainability and home of the Nobel Peace Prize. Since the 1990s, Norway has experienced immigration from countries with starkly different cultures, religions, and racial identities, and more recently the global displacement crisis has brought about new policies of both exclusion and inclusion. Topics: Human rights, gender issues, immigration and national identity, peace and justice, the Scandinavian welfare state, globalization and migration, environmentalism, and social justice. If you are interested in a custom program on your campus, contact Mohamed Sallam, HECUA’s Director of Programs at

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