Not your typical spring breakers: 18 TCU students travel to Panama to work with international NGOs

Watch students from last year’s Global Academy describe their experiences. Follow this year’s class at

While hundreds of college students will flock to the beaches of Panama City, Florida, this spring break, 18 TCU students are heading to the other Panama City — in Central America. As part of the TCU Global Academy, these students will spend the week working with four non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to address real-life global challenges in the areas of sustainability, urban planning, women’s health and education.

Each of the students was selected based on a rigorous application process and assigned to one of four NGO teams — CATHALAC, MUCEC, Voces Vitales and Wetlands International.

The students represent a wide range of disciplines, from the geo-sciences to music to strategic communication to nursing. Assembled into interdisciplinary teams, each group is responsible for working with their NGO to identify a particular challenge they currently face and to propose a solution.

“I hope to gain a new insight on health care in another country by seeing it firsthand,” said Emily Garrity, a movement science major and Spanish health professions minor who is working with MUCEC, an organization that helps enable poor and abused women and their children to become productive citizens in the region of Colón.

“I wish to eventually travel around the world and work in health care in third world countries, and I think getting to look at the similarities and differences of health care in Panama and the U.S. will really help me to start this lifelong learning process and journey of promoting health.”

Allison Messimer, an entrepreneurial management major and sociology minor, is also eager to step outside of her comfort zone in her work with CATHALAC, an environmental NGO that promotes sustainable development in areas of watershed management.

“I want to learn more about the science behind sustainability,” Messimer said. “I’m on a team that is working on a project that I have absolutely no experience with and I can’t wait for the learning process.”

The students will be in Panama from March 6-13. Meet the team and follow their adventures at

The Global Academy is one of six initiatives under the University’s award-winning quality enhancement plan, Discovering Global Citizenship, which strives to provide a comprehensive international experience both on campus and abroad. The program was recently was awarded the IIE Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in Education for Internationalizing the Campus.

The goal? To bring global opportunities to the TCU campus so that students and faculty can engage in sustained international experiences within their own university community.

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