Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 88.59
Liaison Richard Demerjian
Submission Date Aug. 11, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of California, Irvine
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Brenna Biggs
Sustainability Analyst
UCI Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution offer at least one immersive, sustainability-focused educational study program that is one week or more in length?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused immersive program(s) offered by the institution:

UC Irvine provides many opportunities for students to participate in sustainability-focused immersive experiences as described in this section. Several of the highlighted programs include:


The Global Service Scholars Program is a partnership between the School of Social Ecology, the UCI Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation and the Living Peace Foundation. It is a one-year program rooted in compassion, and pairs rigorous academic preparation with an international service-learning trip during which Scholars learn to put that compassion to practical use.

Scholars, including many minority and first generation college students, first learn about the science and practice of compassion from world-renowned experts, including how to cultivate compassion for others and how to effectively leverage that compassion to make a difference. Then, they apply those lessons during international summer service-learning trips, partnering with local organizations that work in sustainability, poverty alleviation, and justice.

Students first take an online course on the science and practice of compassion, open to all UC students followed by an advanced seminar on compassion, altruism and service. Students complete and cultural immersion training before embarking on a four-week international summer service learning project with their peers. Cohorts of 10 students per site participate each year. Service sites include Paraguay, Nepal, South Africa, Cambodia, Peru, Thailand, Ghana and Washington, DC.

For example, during the 2018-2019 cohort, Global Service Scholars lived and volunteered at San Francisco Agricultural School in Cerrito, Paraguay, a self-sufficient secondary boarding school for indigenous and impoverished youth. Locals attend to learn sustainable farming techniques. As the Paraguayan students graduate, they have successful farming careers or can create their own business. The Global Service Scholars developed lesson plans and helped with the sustainable farming.

For more information about The Global Service Scholars Program, please visit http://globalservicescholars.uci.edu/


The UCI Costa Rica Program is a 10-day alternative-break experience academic experience and travel abroad program sponsored by Student Housing, the Division of Student Affairs, and the Division of Undergraduate Education at UCI. The 14-20 undergraduate students who are selected as participants travel to various locations in Costa Rica during their spring break to immerse themselves in the local community and culture of Costa Rica and experience global sustainability in action.

Prior to travel, during Winter Quarter, students enroll in a 2-unit course which lays the groundwork for the immersion trip and covers topics including: Costa Rican culture, cultural competency skills, personal identity, trip logistics, expectations, academic study topic preparation, and team building. Students also participate in a field trip to the UCI Arboretum where they experience local nature and wildlife in Irvine, creating a basis for comparison once in-country. Early in Winter Quarter, students go on an overnight retreat, within Orange County, designed to continue preparation for the Costa Rica experience. During the course, students are also introduced to research processes, trained in research methods, and are guided by staff on their team research projects. The program aims to prepare participants to be effective advocates and social change agents to advance sustainability at UC Irvine and beyond.

The Costa Rica in-country portion begins with a visit to the rural farm village of Mastatal and stay at Siempre Verde, an environmental learning center specializing in organic farming and sustainable development. This farm allows students to experience open-air living, farm-to-table organic meals, composting toilets, outdoor showers, and rural daily life. Students also have the opportunity to visit two other environmental learning centers, Rancho Mastatal and Villas Mastatal, which specialize in sustainable building, research and living. While guided by local experts in Mastatal students explore concepts related to the nature and culture of Costa Rica, including rural community structure, tropical ecology, medicinal plant use, Costa Rican education, sustainable chocolate farming, reforestation, ecotourism, sustainable development & building, indigenous issues, and composting. They meet with local indigenous community members to learn about medicinal plant uses and participate in the making of chocolate at a cocoa farm.

The students work in research teams and conduct research projects during their travels to Costa Rica. There are 5 research themes offered within the Costa Rica Program that aim to explore sustainability through diverse frameworks and disciplines. The research themes include 1) Conservations and Policy, 2) Eco-Tourism, 3) Tropical and Agroforestry, 4) Immigration, and 5) Health. While students are assigned to the research themes above, research teams will create their own research questions and focus areas to explore within the umbrella topic theme.

During Spring Quarter, students present their research at the Costa Rica Program Symposium, which brings key stakeholders and community members together to hear about program outcomes and meet individually with the participants as they showcase their research projects. This has been a highly successful event and allows program supporters to hear about the impact of their support and the knowledge the participants gained. The program website also serves as a communication tool by hosting over several blog posts about the students’ experiences and allows readers to gain better insight into the sustainable practices and cultural experiences in Costa Rica.

For more information about the UCI Costa Rica Program, please visit https://sites.uci.edu/costaricaprogram/

Website URL where information about the institution’s immersive education programs is available:

Additional documentation to support the submission:

UCI also offers the following sustainability-inclusive educational study program:


UC Irvine's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program administers the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), which provides students with the opportunity to become immersed in a research topic full-time over a 10-week period or the equivalent of 400 hours. Students define their own research objectives, which can be sustainability focused. SURP is open to all non-graduating UCI undergraduates who are in good academic standing and who have been involved in a faculty-mentored research project or creative activity for at least one quarter before the beginning of the Summer.

For more information about SURP, please visit: https://urop.uci.edu/opportunities/urop-opportunities/

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.