The AU Center for Latin American and Latino Studies had a busy fall semester and a productive spring is well underway. As we approached the three-year point since our inauguration in 2010, we reached a milestone with publication of the first Center-sponsored scholarly volume, New Institutions of Participatory Democracy: Voice and Consequence, which was released simultaneously in English by Palgrave MacMillan and in Spanish by FLACSO-Mexico in November 2012. We expect an additional four books to emerge as a result of CLALS projects during 2013.
Our current research portfolio encompasses nearly two dozen projects, and planning is underway for new investigations of several important topics, including the health impacts of mass deportations of Latinos from the U.S.; the role of religious institutions in rights advocacy for U.S. Latinos; and mangrove conservation efforts undertaken by Afro-Ecuadoran communities. During the first two months of 2013 numerous grant proposals, seeking well over $1 million in support for these projects, were submitted to federal and private funding agencies. This builds on the Center’s receipt of roughly $1 million in grants during the previous academic year.
Our efforts to incorporate innovative multimedia and social media into our research and dissemination activities are beginning to bear fruit. High-quality content continues to attract large audiences to InSight Crime, with over 100,000 views per month, and to our weekly podcast and radio show, Latin Pulse, with over 30,000 weekly listeners. The CLALS Facebook page is gaining visibility, with over 2,000 likes, and the AU Latin America blog is building a dedicated audience as it enters its second semester of provoking debate on U.S.-Latin America relations.
It is especially gratifying to report that more than half of our 75 affiliated faculty are playing leadership roles in CLALS-sponsored projects, and many others are involved in one or another of our activities. In addition, the Center’s expansion continues to benefit from the efforts of a growing roster of Research Fellows, whose scholarly, journalistic and public policy expertise contribute to the production and dissemination of high quality and valuable knowledge. As CLALS continues to establish itself as a world-class research center that brings Latino affairs and the study of Latin America to the forefront of the intellectual agenda in the U.S. and beyond, we look forward to continued engagement from the communities of researchers and practitioners who are making this work happen.
We extend our best wishes for a productive spring semester.
A number of important developments have taken place at CLALS in recent months, and will shape much of our work during the coming academic year. Several scholars and practitioners have joined us as Research Fellows, working on their own projects and shaping Center-sponsored initiatives funded extra-murally. An additional cohort of Fellows will come on board in August. To accommodate this welcome influx of talent, we have again expanded our space, incorporating an additional suite of offices at 4545 42nd Street, a block from the Tenleytown metro station.
The Center’s growing success in attracting major grants from an array of different agencies is a second noteworthy advance. Thanks to diligent efforts of faculty and staff, a dozen awards received over the past year have generated more than $1 million in support of a variety of Center-sponsored programs that are generating new knowledge and circulating the findings of research in innovative ways.
This relates to a third aspect of our work: the diversification of channels for disseminating information. In addition to our use of social media – we recently ventured into the worlds of both Facebook and Twitter (@AU_CLALS) – the Center has launched a public affairs blog and is continuing to support Latin Pulse, a weekly radio show and podcast undertaken by AU’s School of Communication (SOC) and Link TV. As evident in our increasingly robust website, we are also making greater use of video, again drawing on the talents of our colleagues in SOC.
During the coming year we will continue to expand the Fellows program, our portfolio of funded research and our use of diverse media. I am confident that we will also formalize evolving partnerships with other organizations, including universities, governments and advocacy organizations. In so doing, we aim to contribute meaningfully to AU’s institution-wide efforts to raise the profile of what we do beyond the boundaries of the campus, to bring cutting-edge ideas from outside AU into our classrooms and research units, and to see our work have a growing impact on the broader world around us. Contemporary societies have much to gain from deeper understanding of Latino experiences and of Latin America, and with your continued support CLALS will play an ever more important role in supplying this valuable knowledge.
On the heels of a very productive summer, CLALS is poised to advance an array of projects during the coming academic year. In September, the Center will launch a two-year program of research and publications on elites and political power in Central America. This program is supported by a generous grant from the Ford Foundation, and will engage scholars throughout the region. We will also inaugurate the research project “Hemisphere in Flux” with a major conference at AU in October. Exploring the shifting contours of international relations in the Americas, the project is a collaboration with a consortium of Brazilian universities and the Buenos Aires-based Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales (CRIES).
Additionally, we are excited about several new initiatives that are currently under development, and for which we hope to secure funding this academic year. These include studies of environmental law and regulation in extractive industries, the impact of countercyclical economic policies on Latin America’s experience of the global financial crisis, and religious institutions and violence under dictatorship and democracy.
The Center’s ambitious efforts focused on concerns of Latinos in the United States have been especially productive. Within the Washington, D.C. region, our ongoing partnership with CentroNia, the Columbia Heights-based charter school and social service organization, is generating valuable insights into the nature and impact of after-school programs that target Latino youth. Similarly, together with the Latino Economic Development Council we are designing a project that will aim to better understand the time horizons that shape how Latino immigrant entrepreneurs conduct their businesses. Also, working with staff at Nueva Vida, a health services provider, we are planning to assess the efficacy of different strategies for motivating Latina women to seek breast cancer screening.
While much of our work in Latino Studies is focused on the local metropolitan area, we are engaging national level institutions as well, for example through an upcoming workshop, co-sponsored with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), devoted to exploring how emerging currents of research on discrimination might inform strategies for reducing discrimination against Latinos.
Although the Center is still just over 18 months old, we are pleased that scholars from around the world are increasingly seeking to join us as they carry out research in Washington. During the coming semester we will host doctoral and faculty fellows from Brazil, Canada and the U.S., investigating topics such as Latino identities, climate change policy and organized crime. We expect to welcome additional fellows beginning soon after the new year.
Most of what CLALS does will continue to take place on the main AU campus, but we have just moved to new quarters, a newly renovated suite of offices on 42nd Street, conveniently located by the Tenleytown Metro stop. Our phones, fax and mailing address remain unchanged, as is our core mission of advancing the frontiers of research in Latin American and Latino Studies, and connecting the findings of our work to users of knowledge from a wide range of institutions and walks of life.
The spring semester of 2011 is well underway, and CLALS is as busy as ever. We have convened workshops on contemporary political, economic and security issues in Mexico, on basic needs provision in Cuba, and on organized crime in the Americas, and we will host leading experts from throughout the Hemisphere at an April planning meeting for a project with the Washington College of Law focused on environmental law and regulation in Latin America. Each of these events exhibits our commitment to bringing state of the art research to AU, and to engaging our faculty and students in cutting edge debates about Latin America.
The Center has partnered with the School of Education, Teaching and Health to launch an ambitious research project measuring the quality and impact of after-school programs serving Latino kids in Washington, DC, and we have begun an initiative with the School of Communication to develop a series of multi-media documentaries on the challenges facing Latino populations in distinct settings across the U.S. Caribbean issues have also been at the forefront of our work in recent months: a Center-sponsored report on challenges for reconstruction in Haiti was recently released, and we are looking forward to a panel discussion on Cuban cinema.
We are also preparing to evaluate proposals in the first Tinker Field Research Grants competition that will support graduate student research in Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, we are working with the Kogod School of Business to launch research on Latino enterprises and, in collaboration with a consortium of Brazilian universities and with NGOs from across the Hemisphere, we are developing a research project on the shifting contours of foreign policies throughout the Americas. That initiative has already begun to engage diplomatic missions of several countries, and promises to impact debates in academe and beyond.
Meanwhile, the roster of Center affiliates continues to expand, with more than 70 AU faculty and research staff now involved in our work. That number will grow during the coming year, as we welcome at least three new members of the faculty who have been hired to work in Latin American and Latino Studies, as well as a fresh cohort of visiting fellows. As we prepare to close the Latin American and Latino Studies exhibit at the Bender library, we are confirming details of a major photography exhibition at the Katzen Arts Center, featuring remarkable work on Puerto Rico by the acclaimed photographer Louise Rokham.
One indicator of the dynamism of an academic unit is the career trajectory of the students and junior staff who work within it. In that regard, I am delighted that two of our M.A. students working as graduate assistants—Catalina Esguerra and Mathias Poertner--have accepted offers for five years of full funding to carry on their studies at top ten doctoral programs, and that another member of our staff is weighing similar offers. We now have eight graduate students working in the Center, and I am confident that this number will expand over the course of 2011. These promising young intellectuals are critical in advancing our work, and I am committed to increasing both their numbers and their substantive roles during the coming academic year.
We remain eager to involve students, faculty and stakeholders from throughout Washington and beyond in our efforts to advance Latin American and Latino Studies here and elsewhere. Your ideas and engagement are as welcome as ever, and I hope that you will share advice as we continue to build the program at AU.
The AU Center for Latin American and Latino Studies enters its second semester having accomplished a lot, but with much work ahead of us. CLALS has launched a dozen or so projects, organized around five thematic clusters, and a similar number of initiatives are in the works. These are evolving in partnership with Schools and Colleges across the University, as well as with individuals and institutions beyond AU. What unites these disparate efforts is a common commitment to generating new knowledge and deploying that knowledge to address challenges faced by Latino communities in the United States and by societies throughout Latin America. Exploration of our website will introduce visitors to the range of issues that we are addressing, and to the sorts of activities that we hope to carry out during the months and years to come.
We are developing ideas, and building relationships that I am confident will endure over time. This is an exciting moment for the Center, and for the University. AU faculty, staff and students decided through a planning process that spanned 2008 and 2009 that we wanted to bring this about, and it is now happening: Latino Studies and Latin American Studies have a significant and institutionalized presence at this University, and we are reaching out beyond the boundaries of the campus to ensure that our work has impact.
Aside from the workshop on Latina/o politics that took place at AU at the end of September, with participation of leading experts from throughout the country, we are sponsoring nearly a dozen lectures, films and other events over the course of the fall semester. We also look forward to the research workshop on participation and representation in Latin America, to be held in December at the Universidad Nacional de San Martín in Buenos Aires, and to plenary meetings with faculty, graduate students and alumni over the course of the next few months. During the spring semester of 2011 we will host a number of activities related to contemporary Cuba, as well as a plethora of events devoted to Latino and Latin American Studies debates. At the same time, we are working with the Department of Language and Foreign Studies to highlight the potential of their MA program in Latin American Studies, and to get the word out to prospective students regarding what AU has to offer.
As we continue to generate new work and highlight the dynamism of activities already in place at the University, we encourage you to consult our website, sign on to our electronic mail list, and contact us to propose ways in which we can advance research on Latin America and on Latino communities throughout the United States. Our endeavor is both collective and collaborative, and we remain eager to recruit new partners as we strive to fulfill our potential.
The Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University was established in January 2010 to promote cutting-edge research, innovative teaching and productive outreach activities designed to enrich understanding of Latin America and of Latino communities in the United States. The new Center will supply state of the art expertise on a wide range of topics, and aspires to set the standard for a dynamic University-based program equipped to grapple with the challenges of the 21st century. Drawing on expertise of faculty, students and staff at AU, as well as from other institutions in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and beyond, our programs will encompass the study of cultural, economic, political and social affairs, as well as pressing themes of health, education and environment. We welcome opportunities to collaborate with stakeholders both on campus and off, and we encourage visitors to our website to participate in our expanding portfolio of activities.