#PeopleOfPeace: Professor Emerita Dr. Laura Vick & 25 Years of WPU Study Abroad in Yucatán, Mexico

Jun 13, 2017

Throughout the course of Dr. Laura Vick’s vast career, which spans continents from the Middle East all the way to South America, she has become many things – a scientist, educator, adventurer, wife and mother. Vick, who retired from full-time teaching after 23 years of service to WPU, is a Professor Emerita of Anthropology, where she remains hungry for knowledge, continuing to teach and explore with students. One of the many places she still frequents is Yucatán, Mexico, where she has explored with Peace students for the last 25 years.

“I fell in love with the region and Mesoamerica…and in 1994 I started doing Spider Monkey research in a small Maya village.”

Vick first came to the Yucatán in 1991 after studying Mesoamerica for many years. After quickly falling in love with the region, she recognized the cultural and educational significance of the area and organized a study abroad program. It is here that Vick began her life’s work as a primatologist (the study of primates), specifically researching the behaviors of the Yucatecan Spider Monkey over a series of generations, an area of study that had never been researched.

Dr. Laura Vick (left) and Adair Robertson (center) talk with a local woman (right) in Punta Laguna

“It was about the time that my children were old enough that I could drag them down here with me,” Vick said, smiling. “I brought my then 13-year-old son, and he helped me map the forest. He was the best field assistant I’ve ever had.”

Since 1994, when Vick began her life’s research in Punta Laguna, she has been joined by three more primatologists from all over the world, expanding the program to include daily observations of the species. In fact, Vick and her colleagues have worked to gain federal protection for the reserve.

“We know all of the animals and all of their relationships to each other and we’re hoping that this particular site will last many years,” Vick said. “And we [hope] that it will be like the Gombe Stream, which is Jane Goodall’s site, but for Spider Monkey research.”

Vick serves as the WPU expert on Maya culture and other WPU faculty use her Punta Laguna site as a case study to teach students across a wide array of disciplines, ranging from Anthropology to Spanish and even Math and Business.

Vick and her research team also share their findings with local villagers to use for ecotourism in an effort to give back to the Maya people. This helps provide the village with a revenue stream that not only helps with the conservation of animals in the region, but the cultural conservation of the indigenous people.

“At various points in time, William Peace University students have helped to collect money for scholarships for the children.”

A Yucatecan Spider Monkey hangs from a tree in the Punta Laguna Reserve in Yucatán, Mexico

WPU students have also directly contributed to the indigenous people during their study abroad trips, having helped streamline the business model of Maya women, conducting seminars on how to better sell and distribute their hand-crafted goods.

Even the WPU faculty who have joined Dr. Vick and served as guest lecturers have used what they have learned on their endeavors abroad and applied it to what they teach in their classrooms back on campus. Adair Robertson, a mathematician and Associate Professor at WPU, has become an expert in Maya math after coming to the Yucatán for many years and now incorporates it into her classes at Peace – something Vick says is a tremendous benefit of the study abroad program.

“I have been giving a scholarship to [Maya] children for more than 20 years,” Vick said. “At various points in time, William Peace University students have helped to collect money for scholarships for the children.”

Dr. Vick has grown close with the Maya people and has even become a godmother to many of the local children, who now have children of their own.

“I have people who call me ‘Mother.’ I have people who call me ‘Grandmother.’ I feel like that is one of the greatest joys in my life.

 

Give Courageously to Peace

Thanks to the generosity of William Peace University supporters, current and future WPU students have access to the resources needed to learn through immersive experiences, build upon their courage and develop the confidence needed to turn passion into purpose.
Roses float in the campus fountain after an alumni event.
a student uses a laptop on a green bench at William Peace University

Give Now

Support future Pacer success. 

 

Become a Corporate Partner

Find out how your organization can collaborate with Peace.

Visitors

Whether you’re hoping to attend WPU or hosting an event, you’re welcome to visit WPU! 

Wedding at WPU
Phantom in downtown Raleigh

Conferences and Events

Host your conference, event, or wedding at WPU.

Location and Directions

Get directions, our address, a campus map, and hotel discount information.

Counselors

Learn about WPU and all it has to offer so you can guide your students to the best fit for their next step. 

Admissions Info

Meet and connect with our Admissions team.

Schedule a Visit

Learn about our processes and schedule a visit.

Alumni

Our success as an institution has always been rooted in the strength of our community. As an integral part of that community, we invite alumni to stay informed and connected. 

Alumni outside at WPU
Roses float in the campus fountain after an alumni event.
Building at WPU

Get Involved

Stay connected to Peace.

Donate

Contribute to the success of future Pacers.

General Info

Read about alumni benefits.

Parents

Families are an integral part of a student’s path to WPU. Find answers to your questions here. 

Commencement
Two WPU students work together on a project during class

Student Success: Why Choose WPU?

Learn about the value of an education at WPU.

Billing and Due Dates

Questions about your student’s enrollment or billing? Start here.

Current Students

Already a Pacer? Here’s your quick path to information, links, and other useful stuff.

Group of students talking
Students high-fiving each other

Current Students

Missing something? Can’t find a link? Start here.

Current Parents and Families

Is your student a Pacer? Here’s where to get information and contacts.

Future Students

Welcome to William Peace University! We offer programs for both traditional undergraduate students and online/hybrid classes through our School of Professional Studies. Find your path to WPU here.

Three WPU students walk through a brick archway on campus.
Three students discuss their work during class.
Older gentleman at a computer

First Time in College

Your WPU education will help you build practical skills for your future.

Transfer Students

Transfer up to 90 credit hours from any institution. 

Working Professionals

Enhance your existing career.

A WPU student works on a video game in the new esports and gaming lab on campus.
Woman in army green typing at computer
Two female international students

Readmission

If you previously attended WPU and are ready to return, start here. 

Veteran/Military

Learn more about how to apply the GI bill.

International Students

Find out how to attend WPU.

About

WPU has a long history as one of the city’s oldest universities. Find out more about our institution in the heart of downtown Raleigh. 

2023 Student Showcase
Staff Pumpkin Painting

History

Through 160 years, William Peace University has evolved to meet the changing needs of the students we serve.

Leadership

William Peace University is a small, private institution located in downtown Raleigh, NC.

Work at WPU

Join our team and see why William Peace University was voted one of the Triangle’s Best Places to Work!

DEI Staff
Design Rendering of WPU

Contact Us

Contact the University

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Learn about DEI at WPU.

Mission, Vision, and Values

Learn about WPU core tenets. 

Student Life

Whether you want to know more about on-campus events or see our residence halls, get a sense of what life is like as a student at WPU.

WPU Student on bouncy slide
A WPU student sits with his friends while eating at Belk dining hall.
WPU Safety Officer

Clubs, Activities and Events

Discover what’s fun at WPU.

Housing & Dining

When people say that WPU “feels like home,” we think that’s the ultimate compliment.

Safety & Security

The Office of Public Safety is committed to providing a community-friendly approach to enhancing campus safety for students, faculty and staff.

Dining room at Peace
A WPU student sits with his friends while eating at Belk dining hall.
Health and wellness at WPU

Athletics

Cheer on your Pacers at their next home game.

Student Support Services

Find out how the WPU team supports the whole you.

Health and Wellness

Learn about physical and mental health services available to students.

Academics

WPU offers a mix of more than 30 degree programs and additional minors. Our courses are four credit hours each, and every course features immersive learning experiences.

A student in WPU's online School of Professional Studies works on her homework.
2023 Internship Showcase

Immersive Learning

Find out about WPU’s unique approach to learning.

Center for Student Success

Peer tutoring, a first-year success program, and an internship program are just part of why Pacers succeed. 

Admissions

Start here to find out how to apply, visit, and learn more about WPU.

Before you apply:

Admissions team
students walking on campus
A student reviews scholarship and payment information in the financial aid office.

Connect with an Admission Couneslor

They’ll be your guide through the process.

Visit Campus

Get a feel for campus life.

Understand Costs

Find out about Financial aid and other options to pay for college.