Office of International Programs


Transformative Travel: Tourism, Marine Pollution and Sustainable Development in Mexico's Costa Maya

February 14-22, 2014

ANT 450/TAH 407/ESP 499 (3 credits)


Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, especially the state of Quintana Roo, has held the imagination of poets and scientists alike for centuries. Native Americans, Spanish conquistadores, explorers, pirates, buccaneers, missionaries and naturalists have all influenced the region's incomparable natural and cultural charm.

Home to the world's second largest coral reef system, the Yucatan is a place where forest and sea meet to sustain a striking level of biodiversity from the arid north to the lush, tropical south.

This study abroad program, including its strong ecological and socioeconomic components, will provide students with an opportunity to experience the peninsula's wildlife and ecosystems firsthand as well as to learn about the sustainable conservation in this remote region of Mexico.

In this innovative course, students will see the myriad ways that travel can transform at the individual, community and global levels. After learning about such issues as mass tourism, sustainable development, and the problem of global marine pollution, we will engage in service-learning projects, including helping local residents deal with the massive amount of marine plastic that inundates their beaches and interferes with both tourism development and traditional industries like fishing.


Dr. Kreg Ettenger, Chair of USM's Program in Tourism and Hospitality, is a cultural and applied anthropologist with interests in tourism, cultural heritage, environmental issues, indigenous and northern peoples, and multimedia ethnography. He has worked in India, northern Quebec and the northeastern US with indigenous and other communities on tourism development, environmental issues, land claims and other forms of applied research. Dr. Ettenger teaches courses in cultural anthropology, human ecology, northern peoples, ethnographic methods, digital ethnography, tourism and other issues. He has led previous study abroad programs to northern Canada.

Dr. H. Bruce Rinker, Director of Scientific Advancement and Development at the Biodiversity Research Institute in Gorham, a distinguished ecologist, educator, and explorer, has led scientific expeditions in tropical locales throughout the world for nearly 20 years. In Mexico, he has organized and participated in the Limpia Mahahual, an annual beach cleanup in the town of Mahahual, and has helped bring international attention to the event. At USM, Dr. Rinker has guest-taught two TAH courses and will be teaching another course this spring.

Manolo Ruiz Ingelmo is co-founder of and Heel Habilidades, A.C. along with his business partner, Santiago Lobeira. As natives of Mexico, they have championed the Limpia Mahahual campaign.


The application deadline is December 4, 2013. The deadline for the first $100 deposit (applied to the program cost) is November 8, 2013.

A complete application includes all of the following items:

  • Signed, completed application form*
  • Second $100 non-refundable deposit (applied to the program cost)
  • Typed 200-word essay
  • A letter of recommendation from a faculty member or academic advisor
  • Official copies of all academic transcripts

Incomplete applications will not be accepted. You will be notified by e-mail of your application status. If your application is not accepted, the nonrefundable deposit will be returned. If the program is canceled for any reason by the USM, all deposits will be returned.

* If you are having trouble downloading the application, please contact us at (207) 780-4959 or and we will send you one. You may also want to try upgrading to the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.


The estimated program fee is $3,075. The cost of three credits of tuition and fees at the in-state rate are additional. The program fee will include accommodation, roundtrip airfare, scheduled in-country travel, site visits, field trips, bottled water throughout the program, and emergency medical and evacuation insurance through iNext.

Not included in the program fee will be the cost of tuition, fees, or personal expenses. Three credits of undergraduate tuition and regular university fees is $917. All participants on USM travel programs receive the in-state tuition rate regardless of residency.

The February break is considred part of the Spring semester, so you should consider these extra costs when applying for your Spring financial aid package. Please note that adding these additional credits may put you in a higher bracket for other academic fees. Please visit the Student Accounts website for complete information on tuition and fees. All participants on USM travel programs receive the in-state tuition rate regardless of residency.

All participants will be automatically registered for a payment plan. The two $100 deposits will go towards the cost of the program and the remaining balance will be due as follows:

50% of the balance due January 5, 2014
Remaining balance due February 5, 2014