Xicotepec Service-learning Course

Info: The Xicotepec course (CPH:4755) will not be offered during the Spring 2025 semester. 

Course Structure

The course will meet twice weekly throughout the spring semester, which includes one interdisciplinary lecture and one public health discussion section. Class time is team-taught with an emphasis on critical thinking and reflection to underscore and enhance general intercultural (and discipline-specific) skills and knowledge gained through classroom study and active participation in service projects. Assignments and discussion are rigorous and intended to prepare students for an international experience and, upon return, evaluation and reflection on that experience and meaning – both personally and professionally.

At the end of the course the student will be able to:

  1. Summarize and describe historical, social, political, and religious influences on Mexican culture.
  1. Articulate a framework for culture that contextualizes ambiguities and that values and recognizes biases and the constraints of the personal perspective.
  2. Appreciate, analyze, and address the challenges of effective interdisciplinary teamwork.
  3. List key behaviors that help teams succeed.
  4. Systematically apply the concepts and goals of critical reflection [observation, context, relevance, critical thinking, self-assessment] to this service-learning experience.
  5. Explain the process (commitment, funding, needs assessment) by which an organization such as Rotary International establishes and sustains a community partnership.
  6. Demonstrate professional, culturally appropriate behavior in the Xicotepec environment.
  7. As part of a team and, upon occasion, as a team leader, perform tasks and make necessary adjustments to complete the Xicotepec projects.
  8. As a member of a team, develop and deliver a written report and public presentation that describes, documents, evaluates, and reflects on achievement of course learning goals (including personal and professional growth), the team’s process, and service project.

Click here for more information on service projects from past semesters.

This experience is approved to fulfill the undergraduate experiential-learning requirement for public health majors upon completion of the course. MPH students may count this course as an elective course toward their degree, contingent on departmental/advisor approval. Students must apply and be accepted to enroll in this course.

About the Class

This class meets twice per week throughout the semester. The spring 2024 class times are:

Lecture (all sections): Tuesday 6 to 8:15 p.m. CST | In-Person, Synchronous

Discussion (public health only): Thursday 5 to 6 p.m. CST | In-person, Synchronous

Travel to Mexico will take place during the University of Iowa March break. Students must be able to travel to participate in the course.

Costs & Fees

The program fee for the Spring 2024 semester will be approximately $2,100 for both residents and non-residents. This fee includes flights, travel to and from Iowa City, lodging, meals (except meals while en route to and from Xicotepec). The program fees do not include tuition, personal items (souvenirs, toiletries, etc), the study abroad administrative fee (see below), passports, mandatory travel insurance (see below), or immunizations.

All University of Iowa students are required to pay a $400 fee assessed by the International Programs office. Students traveling abroad will be automatically enrolled in international travel insurance through CISI at a rate of $1.31/day. This insurance is mandatory and cannot be waived.

This program is eligible for the Global Public Health Student Travel Grant to help offset costs.

About Mandatory Fees

How To Apply

To apply, students must complete the College of Public Health Xicotepec Application. All CPH applications are due by Sunday, October 1st at 11:59pm.

Students will be selected based on stated interest, degree requirements, and academic and disciplinary standing. Due to capacity restrictions, seating in this course is extremely limited and not all qualified students may be selected. Students will be notified of their selection the following week.

Once students have been approved to register for the course, they will be asked to complete a registration application with the UI Study Abroad Office (deadline October 20th) as well as a registration application with the Rotary District 6000 website (deadline late October/early November). The UI Study Abroad application requires a $50 application fee.

Apply Now


All University of Iowa students are encouraged to apply. However, due to limited seats, not all qualified applicants are guaranteed acceptance into the course. Preference will be given to students currently enrolled in the College of Public Health.

  • Students must have received admission approval from the College of Public Health to participate.
  • Students must have a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA.
  • Undergraduate students are required to submit a reference from their primary academic advisor.
  • Students must be able to obtain a passport and the appropriate visa documentation, if needed. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens.
  • Students must be in good academic and disciplinary standing.

Students are not required to have previous international experience. Spanish language skills are not required, although they are recommended.

Please note: Rotary District 6000 is the provider of this international experience and has set a requirement that all participants MUST be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at the date of departure to Mexico.

About the Location

Xicotepec is a city of 90,000 located 116 miles (186 km) northeast of Mexico City. The area is mountainous with abundant vegetation. The main products are coffee, flowers and plants, stainless steel, and clay for porcelain figures. The University of Iowa course visits Xicotepec in partnership with Rotary International. District 6000 (Iowa) and Xicotepec Rotary clubs have long-standing, mutually beneficial partnership. During the trip, students will travel with Rotary volunteers of all ages and there will be several service projects being implemented concurrently.

All volunteers and students will have housing provided in barracks-style dormitories at Cruz Azul – in a safe, comfortable convent, close to Xicotepec’s central square. Meals will be provided for all students, faculty, and Rotarians on-site. Transportation to project sites is provided.

About the People

This course is interdisciplinary and will be team-taught in conjunction with the College of Dentistry. The Spring 2024 public health faculty lead is Dr. Paul Gilbert, Department of Community and Behavioral Health.


Schedule a meeting or contact the Global Public Health Coordinator to discuss your interest. Appointments can be scheduled on MyUI > Advising Appointments > College Offices/Public Health > Global Public Health.