Latin American and Caribbean Studies Fall Reception

Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program Hosts Fall Reception

Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) Program faculty, students and prospective majors gathered in the Student Union auditorium on Oct. 9 for a fall reception highlighting the program’s diverse offerings.

The reception began with a lively demonstration by capoeira artist Gustavo Caldas of the Arts of Brazil.  Capoeira is an African-Brazilian martial art that combines fighting, dance, rhythm and movement.  Caldas’ family has practiced capoeira for generations.

Roberto Velez-Velez, an assistant professor of Sociology and member of the inter-disciplinary LACS faculty, gave an overview of the major and minor. He noted that the LACS program’s inter-disciplinary approach gives students a “broad understanding of the people, cultures, politics and history,” of the region, which consists of thirty-three countries and has a population of 560 million people speaking Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and various creole languages.

The major requires thirty credits, including a senior capstone project or internship, as well as proficiency in Spanish, French or Portuguese.  Course offerings available in spring 2014 include classes in Black Studies, Economics, History, Spanish and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

The interdisciplinary approach appealed to sophomore Michael Grossman, who shared his experiences as an international relations/LACS double major.  Grossman noted the “strong overlap” between LACS and International Relations courses, and said he was encouraged by his academic advisor to pursue the dual degree.

 “I’ve always had an interest in Latin America – the history, culture, food, the music,” said Grossman, who is currently enrolled in two LACS courses. “I am absolutely loving this department.”

Dean of International Programs Bruce Sillner shared the many study abroad opportunities in Ecuador, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, the Caribbean and Jamaica. Students can study abroad for a semester, summer or academic year, and courses are available in the language of the host country as well as in English.  “Language proficiency should not be a barrier,” said Sillner, who noted that the cost of studying abroad is comparable to tuition at New Paltz, which offers a variety of scholarship opportunities.

Sillner recognized nineteen Brazilian students in attendance who are studying at New Paltz as part of the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program.  The program promotes education in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The students will study at New Paltz for eighteen months to two years before returning to Brazil with majors in Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Physics, Mathematics and Graphic Design.

The reception concluded with an awards presentation honoring Dr. Linda Greenow, who co-founded the LACS program with colleague Elisa Davila in 1994. Greenow’s Geology colleague, Jo Mano, presented the award, calling Greenow “a totally awesome teacher.”

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