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Release: April 5, 2000

UI wins $172,000 grant to expand Latin American Studies Program

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Latin American Studies Program (LASP) at the University of Iowa has received a two-year $172,000 Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Languages (UISFL) grant from the United States Department of Education to support development of new and expanded undergraduate courses in Latin American studies.

"The focus of the grant is on curricular development at the undergraduate level for new courses on Latin America in a variety of fields and for infused courses -- courses that are currently offered but do not have a focus on Latin America or a unit on Latin America," said Daniel Balderston, LASP director and chair of the UI Spanish and Portuguese department.

Balderston said that many of these courses are in the social sciences and humanities fields. He adds the grant will also help to update or expand courses that already have some Latin American content, including courses in the departments of music, anthropology, sociology, geography, and religion among others.

LASP fosters cross-disciplinary teaching and research on Central and South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The program uses this region as a framework for exploring thematic issues in the disciplines of anthropology, art, history, political science, Spanish and Portuguese, and women's studies.

In addition to its instructional activity, the program sponsors lectures, film series, exhibitions, conferences and round table discussions, works to expand research and teaching in Latin American Studies, seeks to bring Latin American scholars to the campus and fosters institutional linkages.

"The grant will help to build the focus and cohesiveness of the Latin American Studies Program primarily by creating a faculty seminar that will meet over two years with discussions, visitors and research trips in the summer," Balderston said.

The grant, combined with UI matching funds, will also pay for a faculty appointment of a Latin Americanist in political science as well as a one-semester visiting appointment in art history.

Balderston added that one of the long-term goals of the grant is to increase the number of students enrolled in the LASP and eventually to have a major in Latin American Studies at the UI. Currently, there are 20 students enrolled in the program. LASP currently offers an undergraduate certificate and an undergraduate minor in Latin American Studies. Both the minor and certificate programs address the geography, history, politics, economy, art, literature, and social organization of the Latin American and Caribbean areas.

"Students at the University of Iowa are studying Spanish in large numbers (and Portuguese in smaller numbers), and there is already large undergraduate participation in study abroad programs in the Spanish-speaking world," Balderston said. "Enrollments in courses on the area are high, showing that students recognize the great political, economic and cultural importance of the region for the United States. The strong ties among the countries of the Americas are bound to get stronger in coming years with economic cooperation through NAFTA and other trade agreements, travel and migration, and the ever-stronger and more complex cultural ties in the hemisphere."

In addition to Balderston, UI faculty members who were instrumental in writing the grant include Kathleen Newman, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, assistant professor of anthropology and David Gilbert, a graduate assistant in the history department.

Balderston also credits former Associate Provost and Dean Michael McNulty, current International Programs Associate Provost and Dean Steven Hoch, International Programs Associate Dean Elizabeth Swanson and UI College of Liberal Arts Dean Linda Maxson with being instrumental in helping the grant come to fruition.

"International Programs is extremely proud to receive this grant, which will have a direct impact on strengthening an already dynamic, growing interdisciplinary field," Hoch said.

Maxson said she is pleased to see the Latin American Studies Program taking steps toward expansion. "Our students need to be exposed to international culture and history in as many classroom settings as possible," she said. "I am grateful to the faculty members who worked to bring this grant to the University of Iowa. Our students will benefit from these new resources, which will broaden their classroom experiences."

Established in 1978, the Latin American Studies Program is governed by a steering committee of faculty whose primary teaching and research interests focus on Latin America. LASP is affiliated with UI International Programs, which consist of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost and dean of international programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and the community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.

For more information on the grant, contact Balderston at (319) 335-2246.