International studies course breaks out of the classroom

Students enrolled in INS 375, The Economics of Development and Environment, do not have to worry about exams, but they do receive invaluable lessons about the Florida Everglades.

The course is taught by Dr. Richard Weisskoff in the International Studies department and encourages students to think about the environment they live in and how to improve it.

“This is a student-generated course where they are asked to have the courage to change,” Weisskoff said.

“I decided to take this class because I am studying development and its effects in the world today,” said Nita Rench, a senior majoring in elementary education and international studies. “Economics has a great impact on how the world is run and how the environment is impacted, so this class was a logical choice.”

The course has been taught in traditional ways in the past, but Weisskoff has made the effort to get students interested in the world outside of the classroom by taking the class on field trips and bringing in guest lecturers who have made careers out of environmental activism.

“The point of the trips are to understand reality by getting into it,” Weisskoff said. “We also have guest lecturers who serve to help us, excite us and give us information that we otherwise wouldn’t know.”

Students took their first trip of the semester to the Florida Keys.

“We went to this park in Marathon that had an environment similar to the environments of the Caribbean area,” Rench said. “We learned more about the different plant species there. We also went to a museum that contained many artifacts about the area, both geological and historical.”

World famous activist and past chairman of the Florida Audubon Society, Captain Ed Davidson, was also present at the trip.

“He took us through a nature center and spoke to us about being activists and saving the environment before it’s too late,” said Abby Dwyer, a student in the class. “He has dedicated himself to the preservation of the Everglades and wildlife in South Florida.”

Dr. Weisskoff is also planning a second field trip for the end of November.

“We will be taking a tour of the Everglades National Park and then an air boat ride with Buffalo Tiger, who is the last traditional chief of the Miccosukee Tribe,” Weisskoff said.

According to students, the field trips break up the monotony of a regular class and provide students with a wealth of knowledge that simply can’t be read in textbooks.

“At first, it was really hard to figure out what Dr. Weisskoff had in mind and where the class was heading,” Rench said. “However, now I am really appreciative of his teaching style. I have learned a lot from the novels that we have read.”

“I also really think the field trips that we are going on will make the issues at hand more real, some of which must be experienced to be understood,” Rench said.

“The course is taught from a research approach,” Weisskoff said. “The students are required to begin a program that will implement change in any area.”

While most students enrolled in the class are international studies students, Weisskoff encourages students from all disciplines to take the course in the future because it deals so strongly with something that is in their own backyards.

“Imagine going to a university in the Amazon and never actually visiting the rainforest,” he says. “Everyone should have an unforgettable experience, and taking this class should be one of them.”

To promote field trips like the ones taken this semester and to get students acquainted with real world concerns, the new dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. James Wyche, has allotted a special grant.

Dr. Weisskoff is also currently working on a book on Everglades economics.

For more information contact Dr. Richard Weisskoff at or call 305- 284-6864.