Global Focus Program

At Chatham University, 2021-2022 is the Year of Costa Rica. Throughout the academic year, Chatham will host events focused on Costa Rica as part of Global Focus, with many open to the public. More events will be added to this page throughout the year.


The award-winning Global Focus program seeks to instill global competence in Chatham students by leading a campus-wide initiative focused on a specific country or region of the world over the course of an academic year through curriculum, films, lectures, performances, and cuisine.

The program also promotes cross-cultural understanding by forging connections with off-campus international initiatives in the greater Pittsburgh area and beyond.

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Office of International Affairs
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Costa Rica is located between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America. One of the most visited international destinations, the country welcomes millions of people every year to enjoy its tropical jungles, Pacific and Caribbean beaches, and ecotourism activities. It is home to 5% of the world’s bio-di­versity while occupying only 0.03% of the earth’s surface. With over a quarter of the country protected as national parks, reserves and refuges for wildlife, the country is known for active pursuits like zip lining, river rafting, canyoning, and surfing. Due in large part to its position as a bridge between the North and South American continents, the country supports a wide variety of plant and animal life that visitors can discover including spider monkeys, quetzals, macaws, sea turtles, and sloths, among others. Costa Rica is one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world, and today, almost 99% of all its energy is renewable. A plan has been adopted to achieve a Net Zero Emissions economy by 2050 in accord with the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

San José is the capital and the largest city of Costa Rica. Spanish, the national language in Costa Rica, is spoken with a distinctive national accent and employs peculiar usages. Costa Ricans replace the diminutive ending -tito with -tico and because of their unique way of saying diminutives in Spanish. Costa Ricans are called "ticos/ticas". Pura Vida (“pure life”) is a phrase used in everyday speech, as a greeting or to show appreciation for something. Costa Ricans often refer to their significant others as their “media naranja”, meaning the other half of their orange. The national dish of Costa Rica, gallo pinto, literally means “painted rooster” and is Ticos’ favorite rice-and-beans meal. Important agricultural products include pineapples, coffee, and bananas. The Costa Rican National football team is the only national team in Central America to have played in five FIFA World Cup editions.

The first indigenous peoples of Costa Rica were hunters and gatherers. The area of Costa Rica was divided in distinct cultural areas of Mesoamerican and Andean cultures, with as many as twenty distinct indigenous societies, numbering in the hundreds of thousands and speaking many different languages. The Spanish, led by Christopher Columbus, arrived in 1502 and incorporated the territory into the Captaincy General of Guatemala as a province of New Spain in 1524. The Spanish conquest reduced the indigenous population to the point of extinction through disease, war, reprisals, relocation, and brutal exploitation. For the next 300 years, Costa Rica was a colony of Spain, resulting in tremendous influence of the culture of Spain. When Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1821, Costa Rica, with other parts of Central America, joined the short-lived Mexican Empire. In 1823 Costa Rica helped create the United Provinces of Central America, later known as the República Federal de Centroamérica or Federal Republic of Central America. Costa Rica declared independence from the republic in 1838, with a period of establishment of infrastructure and trade, as well as foreign interference prior to an era of peaceful democracy beginning in 1869 with elections. A disputed election led to a brief but bloody civil war in 1948, after which a new constitution was drafted and adopted.

Today, of all the Central American countries, Costa Rica is generally regarded as having the most stable and democratic government. The constitution of 1949 provides for a unicameral legislature, a fair judicial system, and an independent electoral body. Additionally, the constitution abolished the country’s army, gave women the right to vote, and provided social, economic, and educational guarantees for all its citizens. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s Costa Rica managed to remain peaceful in a time of regional unrest. It has one of the highest literacy rates (more than 90%) in the Western Hemisphere and a solid educational system from the primary grades through the university level. The Costa Rican economy has expanded beyond reliance on agricultural products and tourism to include technology industry services and exports.


Photo of a woman singing in a black gown, standing on a stage next to a man playing a grand piano

Costa Rican Music Playlist

"As part of my musicological research and work as an advocate of Costa Rican composers, I have created a YouTube Playlist that features my performances as concert pianist and orchestral conductor of Costa Rican Music around the world. You will find piano music written in the 19th and 20th Century, as well as works by contemporary composers writing for a new generation of performers. [The playlist] opens with an excerpt from a faculty voice recital recorded here at Chatham University in 2015, featuring Dr. Kelly Lynch and Prof. Walter Morales. This video is followed by three Costa Rican Nocturnes recorded in the Welker Room just a few weeks ago as a part of a virtual recital featuring Costa Rican pianists from around the world."—Professor Walter Morales, Coach Accompanist for the Ruud Scholars at Chatham University and Music Director of the Edgewood Symphony Orchestra

Listen to Playlist : Checkerboard 1 - Costa Rican Music Playlist
Professional author photo of Ari Tison

Reading with Ari Tison

This event already took place. | Join us on Tuesday, March 15, from 6:00–7:00 p.m. on Zoom for a reading with Ari Tison, an award-winning Bribri (Indigenous Costa Rican) American poet, essayist, educator, and autoethnographer. 

Read Event Details : Checkerboard 4 - Reading with Ari Tison
Photo of a Chatham University students standing to paint a canvas on easel on tabletop in front of her. Behind her are brick walls with graffiti (in Rea Coffeehouse) and beside her are more students seated at easels, painting.

Costa Rican Murals Paint & Sip

This event already took place. | Join us on November 10, from 3:30–5:00 p.m. in Rea Coffee House to paint some Costa Rican murals. We will paint in the style of murals around San Jose and other cities in Costa Rica. All supplies provided. Participants will take home their paintings. Students must preregister on myChatham—spots are limited!

Read Event Details : Checkerboard 5 - Costa Rican Murals Paint & Sip