Over $650,000 in additional funding will provide the Cornell Latin American studies program the opportunity to expand programming to help promote cultural awareness of students.
The funding will support a new advanced Portuguese class, a summer research and internship program in Latin American countries, an applied economics course focused on working with Colombian cacao farmers on marketing along with other classes and programs.
“It is time for a new push at the undergraduate level to try to create some new opportunities for students and strengthen the undergraduate minor in Latin American Studies,” said Prof. Kenneth Roberts, Latin American studies director.
The U.S. Department of Education awarded the Latin American studies program $342,000, which New York state matched, bringing the total funding to $687,389. The funding will go to the Latin American studies Title VI program to increase programming and strengthen the relations between scientific research and the department.
“It is a combination of building upon and strengthening existing initiatives that have been going on but have not been linked to Latin American studies very well,” Roberts said. “But then also to create some new course opportunities that might give students additional chances to have short term travel or research in places like Chile or Colombia.”
One of the courses that will be assisted by the grant is “Molecular Diagnostics: from Lab to Viñedo,” taught by Prof. Jeremy Thompson, plant pathology. The course consists training in molecular diagnostic techniques, a Spanish language component, a Chilean cultural component and a two week research trip to vineyards in Santiago, Chile.
The course “blends cultural, linguistics, and scientific components,” Thompson said. “Science is obviously the core component, but the idea is to not just be limited to that particularly, so the idea is to get the students to be able to interact as effectively as they can with the locals and communicate their ideas and benefit the most that they can from the experience.”
Roberts commented that classes like Thompson’s are crucial to the Latin American Studies program. It is important that science-oriented students have a background in languages and culture, so that they can be culturally aware of the locations where they’re doing research.
According to Thompson, students need to be culturally aware within whatever career field they pursue, and the grant will assist in expanding cultural education across majors and advocating for educational excursions.
“There is this need for the next generation of students to be culturally aware, culturally sensitive and able to constantly move in the international arena and be able to interact,” Thompson said. “My class is a limited experience, but at least it gives students a taste … there’s this emphasis particularly within the private sector for what’s called intercultural competence.”
According to Roberts, another focus of the grant will be on developing Latin American public issue forums.
“To try to generate more interest among undergraduates, we need to bring in speakers or have public events that are focused more on current events and things that are important public issues,” Roberts said. “So issues like the government changes coming up in Mexico and Brazil or events related to the crisis in Venezuela.”
Cornell’s Latin American Studies program applied for this grant in association with regional community colleges including Tompkins Cortland Community College. This aspect of the grant program is to encourage larger universities to support local community colleges.