Federal education grant will boost UO's Latin American studies and programs

The University of Oregon's Latin American Studies program and the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies will develop new courses and expand existing efforts under a new two-year $186,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Among the new creations will be a study-abroad seminar on "Human Rights in Guatemala" and a new undergraduate-level course on Brazil. Portuguese instruction also will be strengthened, and some of the new funds will support student involvement in an ongoing project to build an online dictionary for Zapotec, an indigenous language spoken by 500,000 residents of Mexico.

The funds — part of a $1.5 million package awarded to 17 U.S. institutions under the U.S. Department of Education's Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program — also will lead to a summer institute for middle and high school teachers on "Understanding the Many Faces of Latin America through Art and History" and lectures, film series and symposia designed to enhance the UO's connections with communities throughout Oregon.

"The award is a very important recognition of the quality of our faculty as well as the institutional support we receive from the University of Oregon," said Lynn Stephen, director of the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies and professor of anthropology.

Stephen and Carlos Aguirre, professor of history and director of the Latin American Studies Program, were among a group of faculty and staff members who wrote the grant proposal.

"The presence of Latin American Studies on campus has been growing steadily for the past 15 years," Aguirre said.

The Latin American Studies program offers major and minor degrees and has more than doubled its faculty from 18 to 42 members. Study abroad opportunities have also expanded. The Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies, founded in 2009, is a knowledge center linking research, teaching and community engagement.

Aguirre and Stephen say that the new grant provides an opportunity to further the UO's internationalization agenda, increase diversity on campus and consolidate the university as a major center for the production and dissemination of knowledge about Latin America.