Field School – Program description

Training Students and Professionals
in Field Research Methods


The Center for Social Well Being (CSW) offers a training course in rural field research methods for both students and social science professionals. Participants are oriented to the geographical, ecological, historical, social, cultural, and linguistic contexts and characteristics of the Andean intermontane valley, where our rural research base is located. The program is designed for students and professionals in the major fields of social and natural sciences, with particular emphases in subfields of medical anthropology, ethnobotany, mountain ecology, agrobiodiversity, as well as Latin American Studies, rural sociology, public health and human geography.

Structure and Content

Course content emphasizes experiential learning and community participatory action research. Classroom instruction combined with actual field investigation shapes the study program. From the onset, students participate in Spanish classes in accord with proficiency levels, in addition to introductory classes in Quechua (native language of the Andes ). Coursework in investigation theory, method and practice will set the foundations of the learning experience. Participants identify relevant themes of focus, and assist the Center for Social Well Being core team in carrying out community activities.

Depending on group dynamic and interests, participants are organized into teams to develop research hypotheses, objectives, questions and responsibilities. Together with our local program team, Applied Medical Anthropologist, Dr. Patricia Hammer, trains students in both theoretical and practical approaches to explore appropriate themes in rural communities located in discrete ecological zones in the highland valley. CSW team members with expertise in native understandings of medicinal plants (wild and domestic, propagation, extraction of active properties, preservation of endangered species, etc.), nutritional value of indigenous foods, and alternative healing techniques, among other topics teach and supervise the progress of students. Participants are closely monitored to assess progress in the acquisition and development of language and research skills, as well as demonstrated abilities to collect, order, analyze, synthesize and present preliminary research findings.

Presentation of research findings and summary conclusions for academic audiences and the general public are developed as a final phase of the field methods program. A post course dissemination opportunity is extended to outstanding students who are invited to participate with CSW in the presentation of annual results at the Society for Applied Anthropology conference.


All program activities are under the supervision of Director Patricia J. Hammer, Ph.D. in Applied Medical Anthropology. Field Coordinator, Flor de María Barreto Tosi, Ecologist, orients students to Andean ecological systems as a point of departure for comprehending the local social and environmental context. The CSW team members conduct classes and guide students through research activities with surrounding rural communities, as well as facilitate subsequent reflection and analyses of findings. Language classes in Spanish and Quechua are taught by professional teachers, all native speakers from the Callejón de Huaylas.