The next chapter of Richter research at Occidental College allows students to engage closely with faculty as research partners and mentees during intensive international field study.

As she stood in the humidity of the Mexican jungle, facing the mural of the woman with the blue hair, Natalia Guerra ’20 knew she had seen her before somewhere. Painted on the wall of an indigenous school she was visiting, it suddenly clicked: a professor back at Occidental had shown a photo of that very mural in a classroom lesson on the Zapatista movement.

“To understand it anew in that depth and proximity was so special,” she says.

For 50 years, the Richter Research program at Occidental has been funding immersive student research and creative projects across the globe. To honor this year’s golden anniversary, the International Programs Office and their faculty advisory committee wanted to innovate.

“Our goal was to create a new opportunity that is both mutually beneficial to the faculty’s scholarly or creative trajectory and the students’ continued academic development and intellectual curiosity,” says Associate Director of International Programs Julie Santos.

This summer, faculty members Darren Larsen of geology, Alexandra Puerto of history and Amber Stubler of biology each took a group of three student collaborators to Iceland, Mexico and Jamaica, respectively, for two to three weeks of hands-on research. Students explored questions related to their professor’s expertise and their own courses of study—a unique opportunity for them to work at a level normally reserved for graduate students.

“I felt more intellectual curiosity during this three-week span than I probably have in my whole Oxy career,” says Guerra, a Critical Theory & Social Justice major who traveled to Mexico.

Each trip required advance preparation by the students, whether an intensive workshop, preparatory readings or ocean diving certifications. But the most concentrated learning took place in the field as they fully immersed themselves in their subjects, learning from—and with—their faculty guides. (Story continues below)