In order to address pressing issues such as climate change, energy crises, and economic disparity, it is pertinent to include local community members within AEC education. In this paper, we explore how breaking the comfort zone of students can facilitate a broader perspective on sustainability. This new perspective can cultivate innovative and creative solutions to 21st century problems. This paper documents the experience and impacts of student participation in an education abroad program focused on sustainable buildings and infrastructure. The program took place in January 2019 in Costa Rica with the collaboration of Colorado State University (USA) and EARTH University (Costa Rica). In this program, students directly communicate with low-income community members who worked with a local developer during the construction of a new neighboring building. Qualitative interviews with students, as well as ethnographic observations of class discussions, illustrates that this partnership helped students see a new perspective on how to deal with the life cycle of construction projects. The preliminary results indicate that the collaboration between the community members and the developer was a key component of expanding students’ perspectives. This research illustrates the importance of building community collaborations that are mutually beneficial in the classroom and beyond. In particular, the results suggest that educational experiences which integrate community concerns into solutions are key to expanding students’ worldviews.
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