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Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Minimum GPA (Undergraduate): 2.5 Number of Credits Offered: 3
Eligible Population: 02 Sophomore, 03 Junior, 04 Senior, General Public, Graduate, Non-Degree Seeking Prerequisite: Yes
Type of Program: Faculty-led Click here for a definition of this term Area of Study: Global and Community Health
Click here for a definition of this term Study Abroad Host: Global Education Office Minimum GPA (Graduate): 3.0
Open to non-Mason Students: Yes Program eligible for VA Benefits: Yes
Program Description:

Research Methods of Vector-borne Disease Surveillance

Kenya, Spring Break 2022

Kenya Summer von Fricken

Program Overview

The identification of emerging infectious diseases, 17% of which are vector-borne, is central to our ability to prevent, control, and respond to potential pandemic threats. Students participating in GCH 491 / GCH 591 Public Health Study Abroad - Research Methods of Vector-borne Disease Surveillance, will travel to Laikipia, Kenya to participate in an intensive, hands on learning experience studying mosquito and tick vectors of East Africa. The course is structured around ongoing research Dr. Mike von Fricken is participating in, with collaborating with partners in Kenya (Mpala Research Centre) and at the Smithsonian Institution (Global Health Program). Students will spend 12 days living and working on protected Kenyan conservation ranches being trained in field and lab techniques specific to vector-borne disease surveillance, while offering students an opportunity to interact directly with local communities and researchers at the Mpala Research Centre (MRC) and the Smithsonian Institution (SI). We will examine the biological, social, and environmental risk factors of disease exposure in an international setting, conduct field surveillance and sampling, learning practical public health skills that are in demand in health departments and research labs. 

The study abroad portion of the course, students will engage in trapping and dragging for mosquitoes and ticks within ecologically protected grasslands, learn how to identify important vectors of disease based on morphological characteristics, and take part in ongoing surveillance efforts being carried out in Kenya. Prior to leaving, students will receive instruction on how to properly assembly field materials, such as tick drags and mosquito traps, as well as participate in virtual modules regarding safety and pre-departure training. Having the opportunity to work directly in an international setting will improve students’ cultural competency, help build research confidence, and reiterate the importance of understanding the drivers behind emerging diseases. While on site, student assignments will be related to following preparation procedures when setting and deploying traps, properly using safe and methodically sound practices in the field, maintaining accurate recordings of data and geolocations, and communicating results through oral and written presentations. Additionally, Dr. von Fricken will arrange opportunities for students to tour lab space, travel to wildlife sanctuaries, hear directly from vector-borne disease experts at MRC, and observe Kenyan wildlife in their natural habitat. These on-site activities will provide students with a unique set of marketable skills desirable to graduate programs in public health, medicine, biology, environmental science, veterinary health, and research in general. This curriculum has been fine-tuned after running two consecutive years through the GEO as a Global Discovery program and has trained over 40 students from across different colleges and disciplines.

Program Highlights: 

  • Field research & tick collection at Mpala Research Center
  • Mt. Kenya Hike & Bongo Conservancy visit
  • Visit to a hippo pool
  • Participation in Zombie Outbreak Scenarios


All undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to apply including students who do not attend George Mason University. Minimum 2.5 GPA for undergraduate and a 3.0 GPA for graduate. 

  • Undergrad (12 student cap) – completed 30 credit hours
  • Grad (6 student cap) – completed 6 credit hours
  • Application requirements – This opportunity is primarily for students interested in international research and infectious diseases, letters of intent from interested students are required while applying to study abroad trip.

6 Credits

Course Options

3 undergrad credits: 

  • GCH 491 Public Health Study Abroad – Research Methods of Vector-borne Disease Surveillance in Kenya

3 grad credits:

  • GCH 591 Public Health Study Abroad – Research Methods of Vector-borne Disease Surveillance in Kenya

Tentative Program Dates: 

March 11 - 19, 2022

Tentative Itinerary 

Date Daily Schedule
Day 1 Depart Washington D.C. (IAD) on group flight
Day 2 Arrive to Nairobi (NBO), Depart for Mpala, with bried orientation and tour upon arrival | afternoon lecture PREDICT program | evening visit to Hippo Pool and observe bats emerging from caves
Day 3 Training on vector sampling, followed by risk disease interface | afternoon collection of ticks & Mosquitoes on Mpala campus
Day 4 Visit neighboring communities: meet with elders, collect ticks from cattle & camels | evening lecture – Zombie Outbreak scenarios
Day 5 Depart to Mt. Kenya for a hike| afternoon Bongo Conservancy public health tour
Day 6 Stay at River Camp | Check CDC light traps and field collection of ticks | afternoon lecture – Walking lecture on vegetation | evening heavy mosquito sampling and trapping
Day 7 Depart River camp | Morning and afternoon – field collection of ticks | evening – identification and processing of all samples
Day 8 Field collection of tick, mosquitos, and feces | evening – identification & processing of all samples, local presentations
Day 9 Group flight from Nairobi back to Washington D.C. (IAD)

 * Dates and itinerary subject to change. The Global Education Office reserves the right to make changes to a program in light of currency fluctuations, changing security and safety conditions, and/or any other unforeseen circumstances.

Program Cost

Spring 2022: $3,500

The Program Cost for study abroad courses is assessed separately from Mason tuition and fees. This means separate charges will be put on your student account for this course, a study abroad tuition charge and a study abroad program fee charge which together equal the published Program Cost for this course. 
  • Application deposit
  • Tuition and mandatory fees
  • Entrance fees/tours/guides as described in itinerary
  • In-country transportation
  • Round-trip Airfare*
    • Washington DC - Nairobi
  • Group meals
  • Pre-Departure Orientation 
  • International emergency medical insurance
Not included: 
  • Passport
  • Visa fees 
  • Some meals
  • Personal spending
  • COVID-19 testing in the U.S. before departure
  • COVID-19 testing while abroad
  • Vaccinations
  • Personal spending
  • Required textbooks and/or course materials
Program Payments:
The full program fee is charged to your Mason Student Account. Students pay the Global Education Office (GEO) Program Fee as advertised in two payments (Application Deposit + Final Payment). 
Application Deposit: $200 non-refundable Application Deposit must be received by the application deadline. This fee is paid online through the MasonAbroad application system and is included in the program fee.

Final Payment: The final balance payment is made through the Mason Bill+Payment system. Payment is due according to the Mason Payment Schedule. The amount due is the difference of your Program Cost minus the $200 you will have already paid, the Application Deposit

Note: You can make your final payment in the Mason Bill+Payment system even if you do not see the GEO program charge on your student account. George Mason University applies payments to outstanding charges first. If you have an outstanding balance from a previous semester your payments will first go to paying that charge. You will still be responsible for the GEO charge.

Financial Aid
In most cases, financial aid (federal, state, institutional financial aid, scholarships, grants or loans) can be used to finance study abroad. It is the student’s responsibility to check with the Office of Financial Aid to review their financial aid package. The Office of Financial Aid is the only office that can determine your aid eligibility.
Meeting with your financial aid officer prior to applying to study abroad will help you understand if, how much, and when your aid can be used to study abroad.

Confirmation of your financial aid award may not be available until registration and billing for the term in question is final. If aid eligibility changes, or the amount of aid disbursed is lower than anticipated, students are responsible for all remaining account balances or risk late fees, holds on their accounts, and program dismissal.
To assist students in the processing of their financial aid, GEO will communicate with the Office of Financial aid those students who plan to utilize financial aid for their specific study abroad program through their application with GEO.  Please note there is no guarantee to students that their aid can be utilized for their specific study abroad program.

If you plan to use federal, state, institutional financial aid, scholarships, grants or loans to finance your study abroad you must: 
  • Mark "Yes" to "Do you plan to use Financial Aid to finance your program (federal, state, institutional financial aid, scholarships, grants or loans)?" in your profile in

After Acceptance:  ​*Students must be enrolled at least half-time for federal loans and the majority of grant funds. Please refer to the Financial Aid Website for a definition of half-time for undergraduate and graduate students:

VA Benefits: The Veterans Administration determines if a program is eligible to receive VA benefit payments based on the participants VA education program. Use of benefits is dependent on type of benefit and type of program. If you plan to use VA benefits to finance study abroad contact your program officer at to request the "Intent to Use VA Benefits Form." You will complete that form with Mason’s Office of Military Services. To contact Military Services be sure to email them directly at

Withdrawal and Refund Policy: All participants are bound by the Mason GEO Withdrawal and Refund Policy.

Payment Instructions

For more information on payments, financial aid, and information for non-Mason students:



GEO offers a number of need- and merit-based scholarships. All Mason students are welcome to apply:


Application Deadline:

November 10


Application requirements:*

Program Deposit: $200 for all applicants.

Course Selection Questionnaire: You will choose the course(s) you would like to be receive credit for on this program. Check the "Academics" tab to see what courses are offered on this program. If you need help selecting your course, check with your academic advisor.

Passport Status Questionnaire: You do not need a passport to complete this questionnaire or the application. However, if you do not have a valid passport, you should begin applying for one now. The Global Education Office offers Passport Grants to help.

Signature Documents: Read and electronically "sign" the documents regarding the acknowledgement of risk, the pre-departure orientation, and your financial responsibility.Application requirements:* 

Additional requirements for non-Mason applicants:
  • Official transcript: To be mailed or emailed to the Global Education Office at George Mason University.
  • Non-degree Contract Course/Admission Form: Please complete the form and upload it into the questionnaire.
    • Additional application requirements may apply to individual programs. Once you open your application, you will see all application requirements.
Application instructions:

Academic Director


Mike Von Fricken, MPH, PhD

GEO Program Administrator

Brittany Harris

Dates / Deadlines:
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Spring Break 2022 11/10/2021 ** Rolling Admission 03/11/2022 03/19/2022

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Applicants will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.