The coming semester promises to be rewarding in many ways. As August comes to a close, we have already begun to welcome a new cohort of Research Fellows, at both the doctoral and post-doctoral level, hailing from Brazil, Cuba, and Peru. We also look forward to the arrival of newly hired AU faculty with expertise in both Latino and Latin American Studies, along with the return to campus of faculty, students, and Fellows whose work is what drives the Center’s programs of research and knowledge diffusion.
While continuing to advance efforts described in previous messages, we also hope to move forward with a number of new initiatives over the course of the academic year. Planning is underway for the Center’s second Annual Latino Public Affairs Forum, which will focus on the impact of Latinos on the 2016 presidential election. We are initiating a next phase of research and collaboration with Broward County, FL, on the importance of Latin America's creative economy for the county’s economic and social development. We are also preparing to launch research initiatives on educational opportunities and challenges for Latinos, including projects on their recruitment, retention, and success in selective four-year universities and colleges and on how school districts in the Washington DC metropolitan region are addressing the needs of almost 7,000 Central American youth who have settled here over the past two years.
In this regard, the Center is consolidating a growing portfolio of projects devoted to the circumstances of Latino populations in the DC metro area. In addition to expanding our work surveying Latino entrepreneurs to better understand the factors affecting their success, which we are doing in partnership with the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, we are now carrying out the Washington area component of a multi-year project analyzing gangs in the U.S. and El Salvador. We are also supporting faculty from across AU and the recently established Metropolitan Policy Center, in the School of Public Affairs, to launch the first DC Area Survey. In this inaugural year the survey, which the University hopes to conduct annually, will oversample neighborhoods with substantial Latino populations, supplying information that can inform research on health, employment, education, and other issues.
Our Latin America focused work will continue to thrive as well. We have renewed our collaboration with the Mexican National Council for Culture and the Arts, which will bring distinguished Mexican artists to AU’s campus throughout the year. Plans are in place to extend our ongoing research on the drivers of migration from Central America, and to develop projects on a variety of timely topics, including cross-regional comparisons of trajectories of economic change; linkages between remittances and community development; lessons for Cuba of transitions from centrally planned economies elsewhere; and religious engagement with debates about climate change. Our hope is that several of these projects will provide opportunities for the Center to highlight the utility of comparative, cross-regional research that transcends the geographic barriers that have too often been encouraged by conventional area and regional studies programs. Indeed, CLALS is a space where Latinamericanists engage productively with researchers and practitioners whose work is not strictly on the region, but who bring valuable methodological insights or relevant perspectives from other parts of the world. It is important to foreground projects that feature innovative collaboration between Latin Americanists and interlocutors from outside the field, in part because area specialists still all too frequently confine themselves to conversations with each other, as evident in the recent decision by the Latin American Studies Association to require that, to be eligible for consideration, applications to convene panels for its annual Congress must consist of individuals who are all members of LASA. In staking out a diametrically opposite position, we hope to inform thinking beyond AU about how area studies ought to be organized and conducted in the 21st century.