Ecuador virtual ethnographic field school FAQs

For more information, visit the article about our Winter ethnographic field school in Ecuador or please contact Barry Lyons.


Why should I consider enrolling in this field school course?

A field school is a "real-world" experience where you learn by doing. You'll travel virtually to an unfamiliar place and get to know people there whose lives and culture may be radically different from your own. This can give you insights, skills, and a perspective on the world and yourself that you can't get just from reading. As one student in the fall 2020 pilot field school put it, "It's something that I will remember for the rest of my life."

How is this different from other field schools?

Most anthropological field schools require physical travel away from home, at a greater cost than just tuition. This virtual field school takes advantage of new communications technologies such as WhatsApp to offer a similar experience, with the cost and convenience of a three-credit online course.

What will I learn in this field school?

The Ecuador Virtual Ethnographic Field School is an opportunity to deepen your understanding of anthropology, develop anthropological research skills, learn about economic and environmental challenges faced by farmers in rural Latin America, and hone your Spanish language skills.

Can I use this course to meet a requirement for my major or minor?

This course can count as an elective for the WSU Anthropology major or minor. Global studies majors can use it to fulfill the Global Experience requirement by co-registering for GLS 5500. Spanish students can count it as a 3000-level elective. The course is also under consideration by the environmental science program for counting toward the 15-credit elective course requirement. For other programs at WSU or another institution, please contact Dr. Barry Lyons, he would be happy to work with you and your program to see what the course can count for.

Program costs

Who is eligible for this field school?

Anybody with interest or experience in a related field, such as anthropology, Spanish, Latin American Studies, environmental studies, agriculture, rural development issues, or others, is welcome to apply. The course is offered at undergraduate and graduate levels.

You should have at least intermediate-level Spanish fluencynot necessarily perfect grammar or consistently complete comprehension, but sufficient to carry on a conversation and to ask for clarification when you don't understand something. The application form will ask you to self-assess your speaking and listening skills. If you are concerned that your Spanish may not be good enough, please ask to meet on Zoom with Dr. Lyons.

Students with different levels of Spanish proficiency will get different benefits from the field school experience. Course expectations and assessments will be tailored to your situation.

The field school application form explains some commitments you must be prepared to make concerning respect for research participants and other ethical guidelines. You should understand these commitments and take them seriously.

I am a Wayne State University student. How much will this cost me?

The same as any other three-credit WSU course.

I'm not a Wayne State University student. How much will this cost me?

a) Undergraduate students at other institutions

Please consult the WSU Tuition and Fee Calculator.

  • Enter "3" in the first box under "Total Credits"
  • Select the appropriate button for your residency status (international students, select "Out-of-State")
  • Under "Current Student Academic Program"
    • If you've completed fewer than 56 undergraduate credits, select "UndergraduateLower Division (Freshman & Sophomore)"
    • If you've completed 56 undergraduate credits or more, select "UndergraduateUpper Division (Junior & Senior)"
  • Click "Calculate my tuition"

You will enroll as an undergraduate guest student.

b) Graduate students intending to apply the credits toward a graduate degree

Please consult the WSU Tuition and Fee Calculator.

  • Enter "3" in the first box under "Total Credits"
  • Select the appropriate button for your residency status (international students, select "Out-of-State")
  • Under "Current Student Academic Program," select "Graduate School"
  • Click "Calculate my tuition"

For students not eligible for any of the In-State/Great Lakes/Good Neighbor discounts, the total comes to $4,888.63.

c) Persons who have completed at least a B.A./B.S. degree (licenciatura in Latin America) and don't intend to use the credits toward another degree

Persons in this situation may enroll as a post-bachelor student. The costs are the same as an upper-division undergraduate. Please consult the WSU Tuition and Fee Calculator.

  • Enter "3" in the first box under "Total Credits"
  • Select the appropriate button for your residency status (international students, select "Out-of-State")
  • Under "Current Student Academic Program, select "Undergraduate Upper Division (Junior & Senior)"
  • Click "Calculate my tuition"

For students not eligible for any of the In-State/Great Lakes/Good Neighbor discounts, the total comes to $3,599.19.

Application and enrollment procedures

How do I apply for the field school?

Please complete the field school application form in the fall. You'll find a link on an updated version of this FAQs document, the AAA listing, the WSU Anthropology website, or by contacting Dr. Lyons. Please note that if you are not a Wayne State University (WSU) student, you'll also need to apply to WSU (see the next FAQ).

Field school application form

I'm not a Wayne State University student. How do I apply to WSU so that I can take this course?

See program costs above and decide whether you will be enrolling as an undergraduate, graduate, or post-bachelor student.

Undergraduate students

Wayne State guest application

Graduate students

Post-bachelor students

Post-bachelor application

How can I get help with admissions and enrollment?

Undergraduates and post-bachelor/international students

Contact Smriti Panda, 313-577-4909, for a virtual appointment.

Graduate students

Contact Dr. Stephen Chrisomalis.

What course number or level should I register for?

ANT 3600 is the undergraduate level; ANT 6290 is considered upper-level undergraduate and graduate level. You may register at either level, but if you intend to apply the credits toward a graduate degree, you should register for ANT 6290. Expectations for students will be somewhat different and higher at the 6290 level.

The field school course

Who and where are the people and place we'll be learning about?

San Vicente de Boliƌvar is a Spanish-speaking village in the Andes mountains of central Ecuador, at 8,000 feet above sea level. Farmers in San Vicente grow corn on modest plots they own or sharecrop. They face multiple challenges including low prices for their corn, declining agricultural fertility, new crop diseases, dependence on expensive and harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and disruptions to normal weather patterns associated with climate change. Our research aims to understand the social and cultural dimensions of these challenges and ultimately help to develop economically and environmentally sustainable responses.

What's the schedule?

The class will meet over Zoom on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. eastern time, from January 11 to April 22. A final celebration meeting may be scheduled for April 28 or May 3.

Including class meetings, students should expect to devote about 9 to 12 hours each week to the course.

What will we be doing?

We'll all be working together as a research team to understand the challenges of making a sustainable living in agriculture in San Vicente, in local ecological, social, and cultural contexts. At the same time, students will have the option of choosing a track or combining elements of different tracks to focus their work and assessments more on these research topics, anthropological research methods or language skills, or linguistic analysis.

During the first three weeks, through readings, other media, exercises, and discussions, you'll be learning about the village of San Vicente and the Andes region more broadly, issues in peasant farming, knowledge production, and sustainability, and ethnographic research methods. Prof. Lyons will introduce you to etiquette for interacting with people in San Vicente and to some of the idiosyncrasies of the local Spanish, which is heavily influenced by the indigenous Kichwa language. You'll also have your initial introductions to the village and research participants through Zoom.

Beginning in week two or three, you will work in small groups of three students matched initially with three villagers. You and your group will connect with individual villagers over WhatsApp for informal activities as well as semi-structured interviews. The three students might 'share a meal' with one villager and his/her family, or a villager might show you around the cornfield by their home. You'll have shared and rotating responsibility for conducting interviews, taking notes, selectively transcribing and translating, annotating the transcripts, giving each other feedback on interview techniques, comparing notes, and analyzing your observations and interview material in research memos. These research memos and other materials will be shared with the whole class. You'll also individually maintain a journal of personal reflections, which does not have to be shared with classmates.

Your annotations and research memos may focus more on the research topics, methods, or what you're learning about (rural Ecuadorian) Spanish. Likewise, how much transcribing, translating, and other tasks you do will depend on your chosen track as well as your initial skill level in Spanish.

In class Zoom meetings, we'll discuss the research memos, fieldnotes, and transcripts, and work to elaborate and refine the research questions and our methods for getting at them. We may recruit additional participants in the village (and maybe agronomists and others in nearby towns) as we pursue questions that emerge.

By about week nine, students will begin to draft a final project, which may take the form of a paper, website, podcast, or other media. Discussing, completing, and presenting this will become the main class focus In the last two weeks. You'll also write a more personal essay reflecting on your field school experiences and what you've learned from them. We'll conclude the semester with presentations, discussions, and a celebration over Zoom together with participants in San Vicente.

In ethnographic fieldwork, we always expect to adjust our plans to things we can't anticipate, from logistical challenges to changes in the life of the community to a key insight emerging from a chance remark that suggests a radical revision to the research question. That's part of the fun!

Will I be able to present or publish a paper based on work in this field school?

Prof. Lyons is developing a research protocol for submission to the Institutional Research Boards (IRBs) at Wayne State University and a university in Ecuador. If approval is secured by January, students will be asked to complete free online IRB training, and we will be able to publish materials from the field school.

In what ways might the field school benefit the people of San Vicente?

Villagers who participated in the fall 2020 pilot version of this field school expressed appreciation for the opportunity to share their experiences and insights with students in the United States. They also expressed the hope that the field school project might somehow help them address the challenges they face in making a living. Our research focus on agricultural livelihoods and sustainability is shaped by this concern. We aim to understand the challenges and help develop sustainable responses.

Who is the professor who directs this field school?

Dr. Barry Lyons fell in love with San Vicente as a Peace Corps Volunteer there in 1981-83 and has been going back regularly ever since. He married a woman from San Vicente in 1991, while carrying out doctoral research in cultural anthropology in a Kichwa-speaking indigenous village on the other side of a mountain range. Dr. Lyons is fluent in Spanish and Kichwa. He has been teaching anthropology at Wayne State University in Detroit since 1999.

Learn more about Barry Lyons and his research

I have more questions. Who can I ask?

Please contact Barry Lyons.