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Cumberlands’ student Jeffrey Barnett obtains full-scholarship for summer program in Costa Rica


Barnett surveys the jungle terrain and plant life while studying ecology in Belize during spring break 2012.

Williamsburg, Ky. - University of the Cumberlands (UC) upcoming senior Jeffrey Barnett of Jellico, TN is one of few students to receive a fully-funded scholarship to attend a social entrepreneurship program in Costa Rica this summer.

The program is sponsored by The Sullivan Foundation and the University of Mississippi study abroad program and will include a two-week intensive course on the concepts and principles behind social entrepreneurship. Students will have the opportunity to earn three hours of credit in liberal arts for the course. The program also incorporates a six week faculty and graduate student-supervised internship in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. During the internship portion of the eight-week program, students will engage in hands-on social entrepreneurship projects. The program will begin June 16 and continue through August 11, 2012.

Barnett first learned about the program through his Spanish professor, Jennifer Marsh, assistant professor of foreign language at the University of the Cumberlands.

“I had been keeping my eyes open for an internship opportunity and this one seemed really fun to me. I’ve studied abroad before, so I already know I love that part of the experience,” Barnett said.

Barnett participated in Cumberlands’ study abroad program in Spain last summer. As a biology major, Barnett also studied in Belize for a tropical ecology class that was sponsored by Cumberlands’ biology department. Barnett is working on a minor in Spanish and hopes that this internship will provide him with even stronger conversational skills in Spanish.

“Each time I have studied abroad before, I learned things that I had no expectation of even thinking about, so it will be interesting to see what I bring back from this trip,” Barnett said.

Although Spanish fluency was not required for the program, Barnett believes that his knowledge of the language helped him get the internship position.

“I love learning about different languages. Anyone going into a field that is geared toward helping people can benefit from knowing a second language. An additional language just gives them more people to help,” Barnett said.

According to the Sullivan Foundation the eight-week intensive program will help students to develop individual entrepreneurial skill and to understand the role of social business in the local, regional and national economy. Barnett is hoping the summer program in Costa Rica will help him achieve his future career goals.

“There are a lot of different things I want to do with my career, but I eventually want to open my own mental health clinic. It can be difficult for families under the poverty line to find a mental health provider who accepts the government issued insurance for poor families. I want my clinic to be one place that those families can go,” Barnett said.

Social entrepreneurship is the idea of finding creative was to remedy problems within a community by using business initiatives. Some examples have included using plastic waste to produce high-end accessories such as wallets and purses and developing organizations that promote health, education, and employment among impoverished citizens.

“Social Entrepreneurship is sort of an up-and-coming concept. I think that being involved with this early on will give me the chance to eventually be recognized in the field,” Barnett said; “It’s interesting that social entrepreneurship is more concerned with furthering the community than with getting participants rich. Of course I want to live comfortably and it isn’t a completely selfless field, but I’ve received help my entire life so it only seems fair that eventually I should help provide others with the same kinds of opportunities that I have been given.”

The professors in Cumberlands’ foreign languages department have continued to offer Barnett their support and encouragement as he prepares for his internship abroad.

“I would like to say that I am really proud of how Jeff has become an international traveler. When we heard about the program in Costa Rica, he was eager to apply and was so excited when he learned he was accepted. I think between Jeff’s biology major, Spanish minor and his bubbly personality, he will have a great travel experience in Costa Rica, and I believe it will serve him well as he thinks about his future beyond college,” Marsh said.

Barnett is still unaware of many of the specific details concerning the internship. Even the dates of the trip were announced after the applicants were chosen. He is certain he will be studying for two weeks in Samara Beach, Costa Rica; however, he is still unsure of exactly what he will be doing during the six week internship portion of the program.

“I’m really nervous about this trip because I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing there,” Barnett said; “I wouldn’t be able to do this if it weren’t for Ms. Marsh, Dr. Molina, and Dr. Dennis of the foreign language department. They have made me feel prepared both culturally as well as with knowledge of the language.”

Located in Williamsburg, KY, University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees in more than 40 major fields of study; nine pre-professional programs; nine graduate degrees, including two doctorates, a specialist, and six master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs.

Article Provided by Kristin Gotch, University of the Cumberlands Multimedia & Athletic Services Summer Assistant