Sustainable Development — Puerto Rico Summer 2021

Puerto Rico is a remarkably beautiful place with thriving cultural centers, industry, remote protected national parks, and white sand beaches. By Latin American standards, Puerto Rico has the highest GDP per capita; however, its poverty rate is higher than the poorest U.S. state, and the territory struggles with chronically large debt, considerable unemployment, and a high rate of emigration. As a US territory, US corporations find considerable benefits in locating themselves in San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, because they incur no federal income taxes in doing so. However, changing these regulations is required for statehood, a longstanding debate in the US federal government and in Puerto Rico. Today, hidden formulas reduce the amount Puerto Ricans can receive in key governmental social service programs such as welfare and Medicaid. Amidst this context provides a valuable and richly complex opportunity to study and understand the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Students begin with building their historical understanding of context, before diving into the specific SDGs selected.

Program Dates: August 2nd – August 10th, 2021

Early Bird Pricing: $3,975
Regular Pricing: $4,200

A deposit of $500 is due upon registration, with the balance due June 3rd.

Prices do not include flights. Cancellations made before June 3rd will be refunded 100%. Cancellations made between June 3rd and July 3rd will be refunded 50%. Refunds will not be available for cancellations made after July 3rd.

Learning Objectives


Students’ have a robust understanding of implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Puerto Rico; specifically, to what extent the SDGs are tangible to the work of key stakeholders in advancing their achievement.


Puerto Rico is the world’s oldest colony, acquired from Spain in the Spanish-American War in 1898. Today, its inhabitants are US Citizens who are taxed and can serve in the military, but have no representation or voting power in the federal government.


Students tangibly feel that they have a stake and a role in the success of the program and of the experience of their peers.

Places and Activities

We begin the 2021 program with four full days spent in Puerto Rico’s capital city gathering our situational awareness, early learnings of Puerto Rican culture, and building our understanding of the recent political and social history. Students explore Old San Juan, the Castillo de San Felipe, as well as visit organizations working to advance the SDGs.

We settle into the middle section of the program; by now, students will have a good understanding of Old San Juan and the surrounding area, and the concepts behind the SDG projects begin to take shape. We’ll take a group day trip one hour east to hike in El Yunque National Forest, learning about the Indigenous communities whose ancestral land we stand on, as well as dive into some of the climate change realities on the island. Students also meet with social impact NGOs and enterprises whose work contributes to Puerto Rico’s advancement in the SDGs. We explore the Museo de las Americas in Old San Juan, including the Conquest & Colonization exhibit for further context. Finally, students visit a former sugar plantation and learn about the historical plantation complex and its contribution to the rum trade in the Caribbean.

Our final days of the program are spent on Vieques, just a three-hour journey by bus + ferry from San Juan. Students are afforded a stark juxtaposition to city life, which provides ample time and space to polish their final projects and prepare to present. We slow our pace, exploring the island’s culinary traditions and natural outdoor spaces as students work on their projects from the program hotel, which Envoys will ensure has an adequate wifi connection. After the presentations, students have the afternoon at the beach to enjoy, before a program closing dinner and celebration.

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