Cal State L.A. Wins Major Grant for New Faculty-led Study Abroad Program to Costa Rica

Share this news story:



As part of the historic "VII Summit of the Americas" (Cumbre de las Americas), the non-profit, Partners of the Americas, announced the 6th round of winners of its 100,000 Strong in the Americas Grant Competition at a VIP reception for university leadership on Friday, April 10 at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama City, Panama. The "100K Strong in the Americas" grant represents an initiative by the Obama administration to increase student mobility and international exchange between North and South America.  

Dr. Tasha Willis with 4 of 8, Round 6 100K Winners

Dr. Tasha Willis with 100K Strong Round 6 Winners

Cal State L.A. was one of eight awardees from among 113 applicants selected nationally, receiving $25,000 in support of its new international service-learning course being launched in July 2015 under the support of the College of Professional and Global Education and led by Dr. Tasha Willis, Assistant Professor from the School of Social Work and Carla Bykowski, MSW (Field Education Faculty). Dr. Willis represented Cal State L.A. in receiving the award in Panama and had the opportunity to network with a variety of international partners in the growing network of universities and non-profits committed to international social development.  

Dr. Tasha Willis with 100K leaders
L to R: Pradeep K. Khosla (Chancellor, UCSD, also an awardee institution), Stephen Vetter 
(Partners of the Americas' President and CEO), Dr. Tasha Willis, Lee Tablewski (100K Strong Program Director),
and Matt Clausen (Partners of the Americas Staff)

Cal State L.A.’s proposal was written in partnership with two of Dr. Willis’ MSW thesis students, Leslie Chopin and Iliana Ramos. It was lauded as exemplary for its proposed innovations aimed to increase participation and meaningful outcomes among first generation college students, students of color and for its incorporation of an inter-disciplinary service learning as a model. Dr. Willis has been invited to speak at a capacity building workshop offered for future grant applicants later this year in Boston.  

Dr. Tasha Willis with leadership and student
L to R: Dr. Tasha Willis, Lee Tablewski (100K Strong Program Director), Stephen Vetter
(Partners of the Americas' President and CEO) and Student Heather Martinez, Panamanian university student leader - "Partners Campus” Student President

Dr. Willis spent the evening and next day building relationships and discussing possible collaborations with Partners of the Americas' staff and other institutions such as UC San Diego, The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, DevLabs, University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign, and several universities in Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, and Panama. Several potential partners expressed interest in involving social work faculty and students in a variety of projects. Perhaps most notable was the Partners of the Americas' organization itself, which runs youth development and education programs throughout Latin America.  Partners of the Americas' staff expressed interest in considering ways social workers could complement the organization’s efforts due to the profession’s focus on understanding people within the context of their complex social environments. Click here to learn how you can enroll in Dr. Willis' faculty-led study abroad 2015 summer program to Costa Rica. 

100K Strong Obama Initiative


Carmelita Bouie, Marketing and Communications Manager