2020 Honors Ecuador

Sumak Kawsay: Well-Being, Race and Gender in Ecuador

2020 Honors Ecuador


Image: indigenous feminist activists protest at a rally in Ecuador in 2015

Photo of indigenous feminists at the frontline of political protests to protect the Amazon Rainforest, 2015.

Honors in Ecuador 2020

Sumak Kawsay: Well-Being, Race, and Gender in Ecuador


Locations: Quito, Ecuador

Sponsoring Units: Honors Program and GWSS

Dates: Summer Term B: July 23 – Aug. 23, 2020

Credits: 15 total  (3 credits in spring will be joined with the 2 credits in summer to equal 5 credits of Honors core)

Course Credits Credit Type
HONORS 384: Sumak Kawsay: Spring Prep Seminar 3 Honors Humanities (VLPA and W/DIV)
HONORS 391: Sumak Kawsay: Well-Being in Theory and Practice in Ecuadorian Society 5 Honors Humanities (VLPA and W/DIV)
HONORS 384/GWSS 390B: Indigenous, Afro-Descendant, and Feminist/Queer Cultures in Plurinational Ecuador 5 Honors Interdisciplinary (VLPA/I&S, and W/DIV)
HONORS 384: Connecting with Communities in Ecuador: Service Learning Best Practices 2 Honors Interdisciplinary (VLPA/I&S, and W/DIV)

Information Sessions

  • Wednesday, Nov. 20 @ 3:30 p.m. – MGH 211E (Honors Library)
  • Wednesday, Dec. 4 @ 12 p.m. – MGH 211B (Honors Seminar Room)

About the Program

Ecuador is one of two countries on Earth that has constitutionally redefined itself as a “plurinational state.” Responding to Indigenous and Afro-descendant social movements for justice and dignity, and propelled by gender equity activists, Ecuador has helped to re-think cultural and national identities by centering the demands of communities most vulnerable to neoliberal policies for the right to sumak kawsay (“buen vivir” or “well-being”).  To do so, Ecuador’s constitution has incorporated the concept of sumak kawsay, an Indigenous perspective of well-being, or “living well” rather than “living better.”  To this end, Ecuador has been at the forefront of recognizing that its patrimonio cultural inmaterial (intangible cultural patrimony), consisting of ancestral “oral traditions and expressions, the performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events as well as traditional craftsmanship” (UNESCO), is of equal importance as its tangible heritage in the form of artifacts, statues, and sites.  This intangible culture is viewed as a remedy to global commodification of culture because deep “understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities helps with intercultural dialogue, and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life”(UNESCO).

Given this rich context of Ecuadorian cultural transformation and dialogue, the program will be centered around the concept of sumak kawsay. This course will explore the historical and social context of the buen vivir, with a focus on sustainable culture (specifically Indigenous and Afro-descendant artistic practices and community building — from traditional to hip hop ).  In Quito, students will explore representations of transformative Indigenous and Afro-descendant cultural identities and practices in Ecuador at large and on social media, while examining the intersectional impacts of gender and queer organizing.  The course will explore if and how arts and culture support the development of dialogue and social infrastructure required to be true to a plurinational ethos.

Quito is an excellent venue for the study of culture, politics, neoliberalism, and resistance because of the the city’s history and contemporary condition.  For more than 450 years, the city has been a site of: indigeneity, colonialism, and anti-colonialism; dominant gender formations and resistance to them; African resistance to enslavement and cultural resurgence; global capital and its questioning; and a vibrant and hybrid cultural politics.


Program Credit / Course Descriptions:

Mandatory Prep Seminar: Spring Quarter 2020, schedule info TBA

HONORS 384: Sumak Kawsay Prep Seminar Ecuador, 3 credits (VLPA/I&S, and “DIV” & “W”)

Instructor: Habell-Pallán

The program will include a 3-credit preparatory seminar, Spring Quarter 2020, which will engage students and faculty in collaboration on campus and through a digital platform (Canvas). These highly focused seminar meetings (once/week throughout spring quarter) and their digital platform will introduce the students to the course’s structure and topics, as well as Ecuadorian society.

HONORS 213: Sumak Kawsay: Well-Being in Theory and Practice in Ecuadorian Society, 5 credits (VLPA and “DIV”, “W”) – Honors Humanities

Instructors: Habell-Pallán and Cárdenas

This course, held in Quito, Ecuador, will explore the historical and social contexts of sumak kawsay (or well-being, or, in Spanish, buen vivir, with a focus on sustainable and resistant culture (specifically, Indigenous and Afro-descendant music and community building — from traditional practices to hip hop).  As sumak kawsay has an Andean (indigenous) origin, in Quito, students will explore representations of transformative Indigenous and Afro-descendant cultural identities and practices in Ecuador at large, and on social media, while examining impacts of feminist and queer organizing upon them.  The course will explore if, and how, performing arts and culture support the development of dialogue and social infrastructure required to exist in a state of sumak kawsay.

HONORS 384: Indigenous, Afro-Descendant, and Feminist/Queer Cultures in Plurinational Ecuador, 5 credits (VLPA/I&S, and “DIV” and “W”) – Honors Interdisciplinary

Instructors: Habell-Pallán and Cárdenas

The course will explore how arts and culture support the concept of “buen vivir” within a plurinational context. This course will explore indigeneity, colonialism, and anti-colonialism; dominant gender formations and transformations of them; African-origin resistance to enslavement and its cultural resurgence; globalization and the questioning of it in Quito.  The city is an excellent venue for the study of culture, politics, neoliberalism, and transformation because of the city’s history and contemporary condition.  As an anchor, we will inquire into the idea of a “plurinational” society. As such, there is a wide array of Indigenous, feminist, queer, and Afro-descendant organizations in the city, such as: Fundación de Estudios, Acción y Participación Social;  Confederación Nacional de Organizaciones Campesinas, Indígenas y Negras; Centro Cultural Afroecuatoriano; Mesa LGBTQI Quito; Femrock Ecuador; and many others.

HONORS 384: Connecting with Communities in Ecuador: Service Learning Best Practices, 3 credits (VLPA/I&S, and “DIV”, “W”) – Honors Interdisciplinary

Instructors: Habell-Pallán and Cárdenas

A powerful way students will learn and serve is through service-learning. Of course, service-learning will allow students to link the theoretical with the practical. More importantly, students will be given an important opportunity to learn while they serve historically marginalized communities (disproportionately Indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian) in Quito. Through community partnerships, UW students will learn from the people they will serve in, for example, after-school programs for children living in dire poverty, or economic empowerment initiatives for homeless survivors of domestic violence. While serving and learning, our service-students will focus on: reinforcing and expanding Indigenous women’s and Afroecuadorians’ economic and cultural rights; gender equity work; LGBTQ (human) rights; and other relevant social relations that are embedded in Ecuadorian society. In the end, UW students will consider (through assignments and discussions) the tremendous advantages they have when compared to low-income Ecuadorians, and what that signifies intellectually and socially to them as creators of knowledge. The final project will entail the creation or expansion of a digital presence for an organization in order to make it more accessible and visible to other Ecuadorians and beyond. Additionally, students will also be able opt to do oral histories that will be preserved by the UW Libraries’ Women Who Rock Oral History Archive, with a special focus on gender, resistance, and the arts in Ecuador.


The Jhomana Guesthouse was chosen because of the overall positive experience that UW students reported during summer 2017, as well as its amenities, location, and cost. Students will share rooms (between 2-4 students per room). You may find more information on their website: http://www.jhomana.com/ 

Program Leadership


Dr. Habell-Pallán is currently Associate Professor of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. She has experience working with international graduate and undergraduate students from Latin America and Asia. She is director of UW Women Who Rock Oral History Archive. Faculty bio.

email: mhabellp@uw.edu

Dr. Jaime Cardenas Jr., Seattle Central College, is currently a tenured Instructor of History at Seattle Central College, where he also holds the position of faculty advisor to the Global Studies Emphasis.  He routinely teaches classes that enroll 50-80% international students, mostly from China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia.

email: cardenas333@gmail.com

Program Expenses

Estimated Program Fee: $4,100 (students do not pay tuition; program fee and concurrent enrollment fee only)

Average round-trip airfare: $1,700

Out of pocket food costs, approximate: $30-40/day

Payment Schedule

Program fees will be posted to your MyUW student account and can be paid the same way that you pay tuition and other fees. Check your MyUW Account periodically for due dates.

Payment Type Payment Amount Payment Due Date
Non-Refundable UW Study Abroad Fee $450  TBA
Program Fee Balance $4,100  TBA

Making the program affordable

The Honors Program is passionate about study abroad and the incredible impact it can have on a student’s life.  An education grounded in a global context provides life long skills and lifelong memories. Studying abroad deepens study at home and provides a foundation for expanded reflection and self-growth, all core tenets of the Honors Program. We want everyone to experience study abroad. Don’t assume you can’t afford to study outside of the U.S. Here are resources to help you get started on your global adventures!

Honors Program International Access Scholarships

The Honors Program offers a number of scholarships for current Honors Program students. These scholarship funds may be used for UW approved study abroad programs or exchanges.  Any Honors student accepted to one of our study abroad programs will be automatically considered for an Honors International Access award.

Study Abroad Scholarships at UW

The UW offers several scholarships to support students interested in studying abroad whether through a faculty led program or an exchange program. A few opportunities include GO! and Fritz.

Visit the The Center for Experiential Learning and Diversity’s Global Opportunities website to learn about more scholarship opportunities.

The Gilman Scholarship Program offers awards for undergraduate study abroad and was established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000. This scholarship provides awards for U.S. undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study abroad programs worldwide.

There are several outside resources for study abroad scholarships. Visit the UW’s Study Abroad Scholarship page for more information on scholarship support as well as information about GET funds and how you may apply the GET to your study abroad costs.

Using Financial Aid for Study Abroad

You may find more information about using your existing financial aid for study abroad on the Study Abroad Office’s Financial Aid webpage.  In general, all financial aid awarded may be used to support study abroad. Exceptions to this include tuition waivers, work-study awards, or scholarships that are specific about using the award for tuition (although there may be flexibility with some scholarships, please check with the financial aid office). Tuition waivers and work-study are never allowed for study abroad.

Revision of Need

You may also turn in a “Revision of Need” form with the Financial Aid Office if you have a FAFSA on file.  Once you are accepted to a study abroad program, visit the Study Abroad Office to obtain a budget for your study abroad program then complete the Revision Request and turn in both the budget and the revision request to the Office of Student Financial Aid in Schmitz Hall.

Visit the Financial Aid Study Abroad Funding Website for more information about applying for Summer quarter financial aid and for information about Exploration Seminar financial aid timeline (different than A or B term financial aid disbursement timeline).

You may also contact Honors Program Director Julie Villegas (villegas@uw.edu) if you would like to discuss additional resources and strategies.

Application Process

This program is open to students in the Honors Program and also students across campus. The program is focused on recruiting a diverse group of students, in particular students who are underrepresented in study abroad programs. Students of all majors are encouraged to apply and the program encourages freshmen-seniors. A basic knowledge of Spanish is desirable but not required.

Acceptance into the program will be decided based on application materials, interviews, and student’s demonstrated motivation to challenge themselves intellectually across academic disciplines and cultures and to work collaboratively in small groups.


Deadline: January 31, 2020