Associate Director Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz wins 2016 Distinguished Service Award

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“Our work was made infinitely better by having the contributions of her voice, her mind, and her spirit on this project.” -CGI Program Officer Jaclyn Gilstrap (pictured left with Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz).

Associate Director Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz received the 2016 Distinguished Service Award Thursday, April 28, 2016 at the Center for Global Initiatives award reception. This award is given by the Center for Global Initiatives to leaders who have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to the center.

Riefkohl Muñiz and Joseph Jordan, Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History Director, were both recognized for their leadership with the Global Take Off: Puerto Rico program, which provided funding for students to participate in an interactive, four-day, faculty-led trip to Puerto Rico over fall break in October 2015. 

Having been recognized for her key role in the Global Take Off program, Program Officer Jaclyn Gilstrap said Riefkohl Muñiz played a key role in connecting the team to contacts at the University of Puerto Rico and other communities in and around San Juan. Gilstrap added Riefkohl Muñiz worked tirelessly to plan a minute by minute schedule that was well-rounded and efficient, but also reflected the ins and outs of Puerto Rican culture, tradition, and history.

“Our work was made infinitely better by having the contributions of her voice, her mind, and her spirit on this project,” Gilstrap said.

We are so excited and proud! Congratulations, Beatriz!

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Director Lou Pérez featured in The News & Observer, “3 ways N.C. industries, farms have room to grow with Cuba”

ISA Director Lou Pérez featured in The News & Observer about what new trade relations with Cuba could mean for North Carolina.

See original post here

BY ANNA DOUGLAS
adouglas@mcclatchydc.com
U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., was one of nearly 40 lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, who joined President Barack Obama in Cuba. In recent years agricultural specialists and farmers from North Carolina have visited the Organoponico Alamar farm in Havana, Cuba, to study sustainable growing processes. Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama during a meeting in Revolution Palace on Monday. North Carolina Cuba experts say the state has much to gain from the current improvement in relations between the two countries. A sustainable farming delegation, including many North Carolinians, at an agricultural research station in Matanzas, Cuba. A Durham nonprofit, NEEM, organizes regular trips to Cuba for agricultural research purposes. U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., was one of nearly 40 lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, who joined President Barack Obama in Cuba. In recent years agricultural specialists and farmers from North Carolina have visited the Organoponico Alamar farm in Havana, Cuba, to study sustainable growing processes.

Supporters of lifting the U.S.-Cuba trade embargo say North Carolina businesses – particularly those in agricultural, pharmaceutical and travel industries – could see new opportunities if relations with the Caribbean country improve.

But the state needs to move fast, says Louis Perez, director of the Cuba academic program at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

“Everybody is rushing to Cuba,” Perez said. “The longer officials in the state delay, the harder it’s going to be.”

U.S. Rep. David Price says the president is working toward better relations with Cuba which will open up more economic opportunities for American businesses. Price, a Democrat from Raleigh, was one of nearly 40 lawmakers invited to go to Cuba this week with President Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama highlighted business and investment opportunities during his two-day visit to the island this week. His message is on point, says U.S. Rep. David Price, a Democrat from Raleigh who was one of nearly 40 lawmakers on the Cuba trip.

“People need to understand their constituents stand to gain here,” Price said in an interview after he returned. “I think the potential on the Cuban side (for economic benefit) is also great.”

Here’s a look at possibilities:

1. Room to grow for N.C. farmers

Though the U.S. has banned most trade with Cuba for more than 50 years, North Carolina agricultural products are exported to the island under exceptions to the U.S. embargo for agricultural and pharmaceuticals – two of North Carolina’s largest industries.

$8.4M estimated export value from N.C. meat producers to Cuba
The state’s agricultural exports to Cuba may be worth nearly $19.6 million already, according to an agricultural economics study from the Center for North American Studies at Texas A&M University published in 2009. A more recent estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau put the figure at $8.4 million in exports from North Carolina meat producers alone. Other N.C. exports include chicken, turkey, grains and soybeans.

“I have seen in Cuban supermarkets in Havana frozen turkeys from North Carolina,” said Perez, a UNC history professor who has traveled to Cuba extensively over the past 35 years. Perez is an academic expert on Cuban-American relations, history and culture who notes that as tourism grows in Cuba, so will demand for food.

One agricultural professional sees the benefits also flowing the other way. Jeff Ensminger, a chef and the founder of a N.C. nonprofit working on sustainable agriculture, envisions international farming co-operatives.

“There are items that they produce there but we are not able to produce,” Ensminger said, mentioning Cuba’s tropical, warm climate and ample farming land.

Ensminger runs NEEM, an acronym for Natural Environmental Ecological Management and also a reference to the Neem tree. His Durham farm is the largest registered sustainable urban farm in North Carolina. The group organizes regular trips to Cuba and helps local farmers learn about chemical-free growing.

Cuban farmers have mastered sustainable farming, largely out of necessity, Ensminger said. After the fall of the Soviet Union, most farmers could not afford certain farming products like chemical fertilizers. Learning the Cuban methods, he said, can help North Carolina’s small farmers save money and produce stronger crops.

Ensminger says he’s optimistic about Obama’s recent Cuba trip and the chance Congress might lift the embargo.

“Ending the embargo is a freight train that we cannot stop,” he said. “Most of the red states are agricultural states that would love to be doing multimillion trade contracts in Cuba.”

Rep. Price said the end of the embargo “may not be as far off as we think . . . That kind of die-hard, ideological conviction has weakened a good deal.”

Only Congress can lift the trade embargo. Obama has taken other steps, including scaling back some regulations that have prevented many forms of business between the U.S. and Cuba.

Food is not the only point for trade. Timber and raw forestry products are potential exports to a country that needs to expand and repair its infrastructure to draw more tourists, says Linda Andrews, a lobbyist for the state’s Farm Bureau.

Farming equipment manufacturing in Cuba, too, is possible. Earlier this year, a tractor company part-owned by a Raleigh man earned federal government approval to start manufacturing in Cuba – the first American manufacturer allowed to do so in more than 50 years.

2. Academic, medical exchanges possible

University students, faculty and healthcare professionals may also realize new opportunities.

“Cuba has a very advanced culture of medicine,” Perez said. “They are very much involved in developing therapies and vaccinations that are right now very much of interest in the world of pharmaceuticals.”

Already, researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., are working with Cuban counterparts for a new clinical trial in the U.S. for a lung cancer vaccine developed in Cuba. White House officials announced this week the clinical trial would begin this summer.

The University of North Carolina is in the early stage of planning a partnership between its school of health and Cuba’s Ministry of Health, Perez said. Just last week, UNC’s medical school hosted a Cuban physician; the university’s dentistry program is exploring a faculty exchange with Cuban academics.

Currently, there are two UNC students studying at the University of Havana and several graduate students are working on research projects about Cuba.

Price says Cuba has excellent primary health care access, and its medical graduates could help improve access to medical care in the United States through exchanges that would also benefit them with additional training at U.S. schools.

Cuba’s government has invested widely in biotechnology and pharmaceutical development, says Ruben Carbonell, a Cuban-born researcher and chemical engineering professor at N.C. State University.

The country is well-positioned for international health collaborations, Carbonell said in a news release from the university. He noted Cubans have developed numerous infectious disease vaccines, oncology products and treatments for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

3. Charlotte-Havana route in works

Businesses, students, healthcare professionals and tourists interested in Cuba will likely need new ways to reach the country from North Carolina. The market for new sea and air travel, as well as special tours and travel arrangements, presents potential for new businesses in the state, Perez said.

American Airlines just this month applied for permission to fly nonstop from Charlotte to Havana. The airline is proposing once-daily trips from Charlotte on an Airbus A319, which could ferry 144 passengers over the Florida Straits.

Airline officials did not return requests for information about the economic impact of added flights to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. An airport spokeswoman said Charlotte welcomes new business but she did not release estimates of economic gains.

The U.S. Department of Transportation will rule later this year on which airline carriers get routes to Cuba.

New commercial flight options may take business away from charter groups – currently one of the few ways Americans can travel to Cuba – but “there will always be a cohort of travelers who need assistance,” Perez said. Getting around Cuba, finding hotels and communicating outside hubs where English is spoken presents a challenge, he said, for some travelers.

North Carolinians hoping to do business with Cuba should visit and get to know the country, Ensminger said. “Fifty-six years of isolation hasn’t been beneficial to anyone … The only way to really understand Cuba is to go.”

Economic and cultural exchanges between Americans and Cuba, Price said, could be the backbone of better relations.

“Part of it is the prospect of political liberalization in Cuba,” he said. “And the kind of people-to-people relationship that should come naturally between such close neighbors.”

Anna Douglas: 202-383-6012, @ADouglasNews

 

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UNC Student Organizations Provide Creative Outlets, Unique Learning Opportunities

Courtesy of our friends at UNC Global. See the original post here

By Sandy Lerebours ’16

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This photo of Yolanda Foronda was taken in 2013 in La Paz, Bolivia, by Daniel Mabarek, an exchange student from the Paris Institute of Political Studies. It was featured as the cover image of the Mezcla Spring 2015 issue.

There are any number of ways for students to go global at the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill. Study abroad and service learning in communities across the world are one way for Carolina students to expand their campus, but students are also enriching their academic careers right here in Chapel Hill through global and cultural student organizations. Currently, there are over 80 registered student organizations with an international focus at UNC, comprising roughly 10 percent of all registered organizations. They are diverse group, including service projects, arts programs, professional organizations, faith-based groups and more. UNC Global caught up with a just a few international arts and literature organizations to see how they are helping undergraduates make the most of their time at Carolina.

Mezcla

Mezcla, meaning “mixture” in Spanish, is UNC’s only bilingual magazine, publishing in Spanish and English on a semester basis. The magazine was started in 2004 as a component of a first-year seminar class taught by Julia Mack, a Spanish lecturer in the Department of Romance Studies. It evolved into an independent student publication and has become an avenue of expression for students of Latino/a heritage. Mezcla welcomes onto the staff anyone with an interest in issues that affect the Latino community and a desire to develop their writing, editing, publishing and design skills.

“We’re very small, but we’re committed to publishing regularly. All of our work is student driven, and each issue is really a reflection of the work and ideas of the students working on it,” explained Tat’yana Berdan, co-editor-in-chief.

Mezcla’s content is diverse — recent issues have included a student’s personal narrative about her experience harvesting coffee in Guatemala with her family as a child, opinion pieces on public policy affecting the Latino community, poetry about a family’s immigration story and treasured family recipes.

This flexibility with genre allows the magazine to highlight the multifaceted experience and impact of Latino/as and to engage with current debates in the community at Carolina, the state and beyond. In keeping with this emphasis, their 2016 issues will feature pieces on the upcoming presidential election and the renewed — often negative — attention the party primaries have brought to the topic of immigration.

“Because we are a bilingual publication, I think we offer students a unique platform where they can write about their experiences and practice their language skills,” Berdan said.

Mezcla meets every Monday at 5 p.m. in Dey 307. New members are always welcome. Copies of the magazine are available for free on the UNC campus in magazine racks at the House Undergraduate Library, Davis Library and Graham Memorial Hall. Digital archives can be found at mezcla.web.unc.edu. Follow Mezcla on Twitter at @mezcla_unc.

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Members of Samaa, 2015-2016. Back row, left to right: Sainath Asokan, Daleena Abraham, Deekshita Ramanarayanan, Pooja Joshi, Jubayer Ahmed. Middle row, left to right: Shubham Upadhyay, Srinithi Suresh, Sabah Kadir, Kisan Thakkar. Front row, left to right: Gauri Joshi, Sukriti Bagchi, Madhu Jayaraman.

Samaa
Samaa, which means “time” in Hindi, is a co-ed a cappella group that combines western pop and alternative music with more traditional Indian and Bollywood pieces. Since their start in 2011, the group has grown to 16 members, mirroring the growing popularity of the South Asian a cappella scene in the United States as a whole since the 1990s. Despite this surge in the popularity of South Asian a cappella, Samaa is the only such group in North Carolina.

Members see Samaa as an avenue for cultural expression, as well as a way to represent the South Asian experience at Carolina. For members like Sabah Kadir, the performance group is “literally giving us a voice on campus.”

The multicultural basis of the group’s musical influences, combining western and South Asian elements, reflects the lived experience of many of its members.

“Samaa really embodies how most of the members identify as members of the South Asian diaspora,” said member Pooja Joshi. “We’re all really passionate about bridging the divergent aspects of our identities as South Asian-Americans.”

“It’s really cool to have something that represents [our experience] in a way that everyone can see and appreciate,” added Kadir. “We are South Asian and we are American.”

The team writes every arrangement, which is often difficult as western and South Asian songs can be in different languages and scales. It’s a challenge the members embrace, despite their varying levels of formal musical training.

Samaa can be found in Murphey Hall, typically in room 314, practicing for two and a half hours every Wednesday and Sunday for upcoming performances around the Triangle. Their annual spring concert will be held this year on April 9, 2016, in the Genome Science Building at 6:30 p.m. More information about the organization can be found at samaa.web.unc.edu. Follow Samaa on twitter at @UNCSamaa.

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Third image caption: Members of Carolina Irish Association, 2015-2016. Left to right: Kathleen Morrisroe, Shelby Hammerstein, Juanita Chavarro, Olivia Barnes and Katie Foley.

Carolina Irish Association
The Carolina Irish Association (CIA) is an Irish dance group that performs throughout the year at campus and area events and offers classes for beginners and experienced dancers. Irish step dancing is characterized by rapid leg and foot movements while the upper body, including arms, are kept still. In the 1800s, the Irish diaspora brought step dancing to North America and other parts of the world.

“Our mission is to share Irish culture with the campus and local community through Irish dance,” said Olivia DeSenna, CIA choreography chair. “Our organization shares this beautiful, culturally unique dance form and contributes to the diversity of our university through performance.”

CIA has performed at events such as Carolina for the Kids, Relay for Life and Fall Fest. These events bring the campus community together and often raise money for worthy causes.

The group also serves the local community, providing a free class on Thursday nights for all would-be step dancers that covers the basics of Irish dance, such as “skips” and “sevens,” danced to a mix of traditional Irish dance music and modern pop music.

“Though there are many dance groups at UNC, there is truly no other campus organization like ours,” DeSenna added.

CIA meets for two hours every Monday night. For information about the team and performances contact Jocelyn Meusel at meusel@live.unc.edu, join their Facebook page or visit their website, carolinairishdance.web.unc.edu.

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Director Lou Pérez featured in University “Well Said” podcast

Listen.

In a 13-minute interview, Director Lou Pérez discusses Cuban history and what restoring diplomatic relations means for the two countries.

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LTAM Alumni Spotlight: Anthony Dest

The Latin American Studies Undergraduate major (LTAM) provides students with the opportunity to master multiple methodological skills and acquire the language competence through which to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the Latin American and Caribbean experience. In preparing students for public and private sector careers, LTAM alumni have gotten jobs in the U.S. State Department in a number of different Latin American countries, transnational companies that operate in the US and Latin America, and in non-profit organizations that work with migrants in the United States.

We had the pleasure of sitting down one of these accomplished alums, Anthony Dest.

Before this National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and former Fulbright Scholar was researching the impacts of violence and development on black, indigenous, and mestizo communities in southwestern Colombia, Dest studied Latin American Studies and Political Science.

As an undergraduate student, Dest studied abroad in Cuba in 2006 when the country was holding peace negotiations between the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Colombia government. Dest wondered why he had not heard about peace talks like this before. Based on initial curiosity, strong interests in learning about the impacts of foreign policy, as well as having personal ties to Colombia, Dest returned to UNC to write his honors thesis about the ELN in Colombia.

Although he knew after graduation he wanted to eventually return to graduate school, Dest was encouraged by his advisers not to rush. Inspired by the advice, Dest pursued and received a Fulbright to study conflict resolution at La Universidad de los Andes in Colombia, with research focusing on social and economic development. He then returned to Colombia and founded the Colombia Land Rights Monitor, which was a project following four communities undergoing land restitution processes. Upon returning to the U.S., Dest started working at the Washington Office on Latin America.

Despite common worries about job outlook or skillset, Dest said the LTAM major prepared him for his experiences thus far.

“Interdisciplinary study has opened my mind in ways that would have been very difficulty had I not been a LTAM major,” Dest said. “I have found that my friends and colleagues have entered into jobs or academic institutions very prepared.”

Now, when he’s not studying Latin American studies as a third year Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin, Dest can be found working a new part of his brain with photography classes.

Many thanks to Anthony for sitting down with us, we look forward to the great things you will do!

About the LTAM Major
The BA in Latin American studies, offered by the Curriculum in Latin American Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, is designed to foster intellectual engagement with a region of extraordinary diversity and rich cultural complexity, within an interdisciplinary but integrated framework.

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LTAM Alumni Spotlight: Mireille Vargas

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Mireille Vargas, LTAM alum studying the south of France

The Latin American Studies Undergraduate major (LTAM) provides students with the opportunity to master multiple methodological skills and acquire the language competence through which to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the Latin American and Caribbean experience. In preparing students for public and private sector careers, LTAM alumni have gotten jobs in the U.S. State Department in a number of different Latin American countries, transnational companies that operate in the US and Latin America, and in non-profit organizations that work with migrants in the United States.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Mireille Vargas, who is pursuing her Master’s degree in Global Luxury Management.

Q: Thanks so much for joining us, Mireille! Tell us a little bit more about yourself. 

A: I grew up in Statesville, NC, and I worked in commercial real estate after I graduated. I fell into this opportunity through babysitting during undergrad and very much enjoyed the business experience. As a result, I am currently studying in the south of France as part of a one year Master’s program in Global Luxury Management.

Q: South of France, so fun! How has being a LTAM major influenced your career path thus far? How do you see it influencing your future?

A: I selected the LTAM major in undergrad when I intended to attend law school and work with the Latino population in NC. After graduation, I realized that I am more business minded and driven. While my LTAM major has not directly influenced my professional path thus far, I reference my LTAM major for future job opportunities, as I hope to work for a company that does business in Latin America. Also, I have remained involved in LTAM related events, such as volunteer work and attending conferences.

Q: We love that you are still involved in LTAM related events! How would you describe the LTAM major to an undergraduate student who is considering it?

A: The LTAM major provides exposure to a variety of disciplines and professors. It also allows flexibility to explore interests and to pursue a second major and/or minor. Despite having changed the trajectory of my career, I have no regrets about having chosen the LTAM major.

Q: Are there any particular classes or memories from your undergraduate experiences that still stand out to you today?

A: I really enjoyed the on-campus events organized related to the LTAM major. I learned about new topics, met various interesting individuals from professors to professionals to other students, and had access to free food! Challenging classes like History of Cuba and the LTAM capstone with all the other LTAM majors still stand out from undergrad as memorable learning experiences. Lastly, writing an undergrad thesis on undocumented youth was an endeavor that I learned a great deal from and that contributed to my LTAM knowledge and connections during and after graduation.

Q: Who can say no to networking and free food? When you’re not studying in the south of France, what do you like to do for fun?

A: For fun, I love traveling around the world to experience different cultures and scenic views. I also enjoy shopping, running, volunteering, eating, and planning future adventures abroad.

That sounds like quite an adventure! Thanks so much, Mireille!

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ISA Director Lou Pérez featured on “Well Said” Podcast

Cuba

Cuban flags fly in Havana, Cuba

Listen to the University’s new “Well Said” podcast, which  features Lou Pérez, director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas and J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of History in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Pérez discusses Cuban history and what restoring diplomatic relations means for the two countries.

 

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Associate Professor Lyneise Williams awarded prestigious Getty Research Institute Fellowship

Dr. Lyneise Williams, Associate Professor of Art History and ISA contributing faculty member, has received a prestigious Getty Scholar Grant and will participate in a fall 2016 residency at the Getty Research Institute to study the intersection of male beauty, masculinity, sports, and the black male body through images of Panamanian boxer Alfonso Brown in 1920s and 30s Paris.

Getty Scholar Grants are highly competitive awards that allow established scholars to pursue their own research without academic obligations, utilize the resources of Getty collections, and join internationally renowned colleagues in weekly meetings. Dr. Williams said she looked forward to meeting new scholars, making use of the rich libraries and having dedicated time for research away from the everyday demands of academia.

“Time to think and process is invaluable for a scholar,” Dr. Williams said. “I feel extremely fortunate because the fellowship will give me time to devote to this project and a broad community of scholars to engage this topic. I’m also extremely grateful for UNC’s support of this fellowship.”

Having come to UNC in July 2004, Dr. Williams’s dissertation and interests focused on the works of 1920’s Uruguayan artist Pedro Figari. The more Dr. Williams studied Figari’s work and his depiction of black Uruguayans, the more she became interested in exploring if there were actual black Latin Americans in Paris during the Jazz age the moment in which he painted.

“The images were highly striking and very unusual, with many going against iconography related to black populations represented in Paris at that moment,” Dr. Williams said.

Fortuitously, Williams arrived at UNC just as Professor Arturo Escobar began an ISA working group around the theme of Afro-Latin Americans.

“This was the first time I was able to engage with other scholars on this subject,” Dr. Williams said. “The wide-ranging disciplines they represented provided a highly stimulating environment for me to push my work. This group was critical to the trajectory of my research.”

In expanding this interest, Dr. Williams authored “Visual Imperialism: Latin American Blackness in Paris, 1855-1933,” which examines Parisians’ visual iconography of Latin Americans in popular imagery. The book follows three case studies, which includes Uruguayan artist Figari as well as Panamanian boxer Alfonso Brown, and offers a new look in understanding perceptions of blackness in early twentieth century Paris.

Inspired by her work of Panamanian boxer Alfonso Brown, Dr. Williams became interested in exploring images of other black Latin boxers like Kid Chocolate and Kid Tunero. The Getty residence will allow Dr. Williams to further explore these 1920s and 30s Parisian boxers’ images and the intersection of male beauty, masculinity, sports, and the black male body.

Although works of the twentieth century seem long in the past, images of beautiful black athletes are ubiquitous today. Dr. Williams hopes her time at the Getty Research Institute will help others closely examine the interesting, compelling, and difficult images and associations that come with portrayals of black athletes.

“When we think about today and how often we see images of black athletes as aesthetically desirable, it’s important to look at the development, as well as the visual, social, and cultural forces that converge in these images,” Dr. Williams said. “I hope the project presents ideas that help us think about what we see; to know we are taking in images and consuming ideas whether we know it or not.”

About Getty Scholar Grants
Getty Scholar Grants are for established scholars, or writers who have attained distinction in their fields. Recipients are in residence at the Getty Research Institute or Getty Villa, where they pursue their own projects free from academic obligations, make use of Getty collections, join their colleagues in a weekly meeting devoted to an annual research theme, and participate in the intellectual life of the Getty.

 

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LTAM Major Michael Ruggeri Olson inducted into Phi Beta Kappa

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Michael Ruggeri Olson

We would like to offer congratulations to Michael Ruggeri Olson, a 2016 Latin American Studies and Political Science double major from Greensboro, who was inducted April 5, 2016 into the Alpha of North Carolina Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Michael speaks Spanish and Portuguese, and had experiences ranging from working five days a week constructing Cleaner Burning Stoves in Urubamba, Peru, to working on a construction crew that traveled to regional and international airports in the Southeastern U.S.

Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest and most honored college honorary society. Membership is open to undergraduates in the college and professional degree programs who meet stringent eligibility requirements. A student who has completed 75 hours of course work with a GPA of 3.85 or better (on a 4-point scale) is eligible for membership. Also eligible is any student who has completed 105 hours of course work in the liberal arts and sciences with a 3.75 GPA. Grades earned at other universities are not considered. Less than 1 percent of all college students qualify.

Past and present Phi Beta Kappa members from across the country have included 17 American presidents and numerous artistic, intellectual and political leaders. Seven of the nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices are members. Phi Beta Kappa has 280 chapters nationwide. UNC’s chapter, Alpha of North Carolina, was founded in 1904 and is the oldest of seven chapters in the state.

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LTAM Alumni Spotlight: Simone Duval

The Latin American Studies Undergraduate major (LTAM) provides students with the opportunity to master multiple methodological skills and acquire the language competence through which to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the Latin American and Caribbean experience. In preparing students for public and private sector careers, LTAM alumni have gotten jobs in the U.S. State Department in a number of different Latin American countries, transnational companies that operate in the US and Latin America, and in non-profit organizations that work with migrants in the United States.

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Simone Duval, Policy Assistant in the Global Health Policy team at Johnson and Johnson.

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“Once you find LTAM, you can really take it and run with it.” -Simone Duvall, ’14

Q: Thanks so much for joining us, Simone! Tell us a little more about yourself.

A: Right after I graduated in 2014, I spent 6 weeks in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for a Foreign Language and Area Studies immersive language experience. I loved Brazil so much that I wanted to stay forever! However, I had an employment opportunity with a non-profit waiting for me back in Washington, DC, so I started working with the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA) in August 2014. As the Programs Manager and Executive Assistant at CDA, I was in charge of planning and managing official delegations to Cuba for members of Congress and the business community. I also assisted with event planning and fundraising. After a little over a year working on Cuba policy, I was offered the opportunity to become a Policy Assistant in the Global Health Policy team with the health care company Johnson & Johnson, based in Washington, which is where I still work.

Q: How has being a LTAM major influenced your career path thus far? How do you see it influencing your future?

A: Being a LTAM major solidified my interest in a career related to Latin America, whether that was in policy, business, or non-profit, etc. I knew that I immensely enjoyed learning about the socioeconomic, political and historical development of the region while at Carolina, and even better, my professors and classmates pushed me to take my learning outside the classroom. Carolina has amazing resource connections to help undergraduates craft the experience they want out of their education, and the support the LTAM major offered me in accessing those resources, from scholarships to research to community projects to independent studies, was unparalleled.

Q: We love that. How would you describe the LTAM major to an undergraduate student who is considering it?

A: I would describe it as the best way to design your own lens with which to view Latin America; there are so many incredible, supportive and breathtakingly intelligent professors who are there to help you see a different side to the region that you may never have considered before. I loved the LTAM major because it was a smaller group of students who were all intensely interested in Latin America. That specific hemispheric focus wasn’t something I was able to get out of a more general Global Studies major, but then again I knew that I wanted to work in Latin America and on Latin America-related issues once I graduated. And once you find LTAM, you can really take it and run with it.

Q: We hope others will “run with it” too! Are there any particular classes or memories from your undergraduate experiences that still stand out to you today?

A: Yes, of course! I can’t even choose my favorites from amongst all of them, because I loved them all dearly. I treasured my Latino studies and international communication classes with Dra. Lucila Vargas at the Journalism school (I was a double-major in journalism and mass communications – Dra. Vargas is simply a GEM); enlightening discussions on migrant theology and ancient mapping techniques in Mexico with my LTAM capstone course professor, Cynthia Radding; delving into the depths of contemporary Latin American politics with Cecilia Martinez-Gallardo; dissecting the tools of Argentinean poetry with Emilio del Valle Escalante; understanding the effects of Peru’s Shining Path on the population and on our geography professor, Gabriela Valdivia; and of course, how could I forget Professor Lou Perez’s incredibly challenging History of Cuba class? Those classes are just a few that come to mind at the moment and I hope I don’t do an injustice to the many other wonderful teachers I had at UNC! But the diversity and variety of the types of classes I took I think really does justice to the flexibility of the LTAM major. Also, I will never forget Radio Latijam – FM. 103.5 on Friday nights from 5-6pm!

Q: When you’re not listening to Radio Latjam or working, what do you like to do for fun?

A: I love to travel, do yoga, salsa dance, run half marathons, try out new ceviches joints, play outside and cook my own granola.

Thanks so much for speaking with us, Simone!

About the LTAM major

The BA in Latin American studies, offered by the Curriculum in Latin American Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, is designed to foster intellectual engagement with a region of extraordinary diversity and rich cultural complexity, within an interdisciplinary but integrated framework.

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