Title VI International Research and Studies Grant Funded

Rita O’Sullivan, Associate Professor or Evaluation and Assessment, and Ph.D. students Fabiola Salas Villalobos and Wenyang Sun in collaboration with the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools were successful in competing for one of eight Title VI International Research and Studies (IRS) Program Grants from the U.S. Department of Education. The three-year project, funded for $250,000, is entitled “Investigation of How Teachers’ Use of Bridging in Dual Language Immersion Programs (Mandarin/English and Spanish/English) Can Help Strengthen Student Literacy in Grades 3-5.” It is designed to explore improved instructional practices for teachers in Spanish/English and Mandarin/English Dual Language immersion programs.

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“Maestra” film screening

On Thursday, September 28, faculty, graduate students, educators and community members gathered in Wilson Library’s Pleasants Family Assembly Room for a screening of the 2011 documentary Maestra.  The film, which explores the 1961 Cuban literacy campaign through the testimonies of some of its youngest female teachers, was followed by a discussion with ISA director Lou Pérez, filmmaker Catherine Murphy, and Griselda Aguilera, a participant who was 7 when she volunteered to teach. Her story, alongside the accounts of the women included in the film, highlighted the courage, dedication, strength and ingenuity of the tens of thousands of teenage women who gave a year of their lives to the campaign that would enable over 700,000 Cubans to read.

Maestra is now available through the Latin American Film Library.  If you are interested in checking it out, please email la_films@unc.edu.

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UNC receives grant to examine human health cost of economic development in Galápagos

See the original post here. 

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Interview with Kia Caldwell, “Health Equity in Brazil: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Policy”

We are pleased to share the following interview with ISA faculty member Kia Caldwell. 

Erica L. Williams, an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Spelman College, interviews Kia Lilly Caldwell about her new book, “Health Equity in Brazil: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Policy,” recently published by the University of Illinois Press. Kia Lilly Caldwell is Associate Professor in the Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned her PhD in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. Her first book, “Negras in Brazil: Re-Envisioning Black Women, Citizenship,” and the “Politics of Identity in Brazil,” was published by Rutgers University Press in 2007. She is also the co-editor of “Gendered Citizenships: Transnational Perspectives on Knowledge Production, Political Activism, and Culture,” which was published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2009. Follow her on Twitter @KiaLCaldwell.

Click to read it now.

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Spotlight: Discovery Through Iterative Learning Postdoctoral Fellow Alex Ripp

The Institute for the Study of the Americas (ISA) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge of the Latin American experience in the Western Hemisphere. We were pleased to sit down with DisTIL (Discovery Through Iterative Learning) postdoctoral fellow at Carolina Performing Arts Alex Ripp and learn more about her position, past accomplishments, and what she is looking forward to while at UNC Chapel Hill.

Q: Alex, thank you so much for joining us. Please first tell us about yourself.

“I have been involved in theater since I was a kid, and since living in Costa Rica for five months at age 18, I’ve merged my interests in Latin America and theater both practically and academically.” -Alex Ripp

A: I’m from New Jersey, and although I have in lived Costa Rica, Argentina, and Thailand, I have never lived anywhere in the U.S. but the Northeast — so my move to UNC is a new adventure. I have been involved in theater since I was a kid, and since living in Costa Rica for five months at age 18, I’ve merged my interests in Latin America and theater both practically and academically. In May 2017, I graduated from Yale School of Drama with my Doctorate in Fine Arts, where I wrote my dissertation on Chilean theater between 1998 and 2010 and its connection to post-dictatorship memory politics. I’ve also translated several Chilean plays for U.S. tour subtitles and recently published one.I hope to keep traveling to Chile so that I can continue to write about and translate work from there. I’m deeply interested in the country’s social and political history, and hope to share with U.S. audiences the exciting performing arts work I see going on in Santiago.

I also do non-academic work in the arts. As an MFA student at Yale I worked on theater productions with actors, directors, and designers. I also worked as a producer and programmer of public talks and panels at New Haven’s annual International Festival of Arts and Ideas. This has led me to a growing interest in the public humanities, and specifically how artists, universities, and community members can collaborate. I’m really interested to learn more about the local art scene in NC, both visual and performing.

Q: That sounds fascinating! Tell us about your role at UNC and previous work.

A: I’m the DisTIL postdoctoral fellow at Carolina Performing Arts, which means my primary task is to oversee the DisTIL Fellowship funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Artist Fellows come to campus for multiple semesters to collaborate with faculty in departments outside their own expertise. The Fellowship’s length allows for these artistic-academic collaborations to develop organically, so that artists and faculty members will learn from one another. No endproduct need result; the intention is bidirectional transformation across the arts and academy. So far, there are two Fellows, singer-songwriter-composer Toshi Reagon and artist-director-puppet maker Robin Frohardt; both will visit UNC. Two more Fellows will be announced later on. I’m also teaching a course in the spring that will integrate the work of the Fellows in some way.

This Fellowship, which builds on CPA’s previous Arts at the Core grant, is incredibly innovative, and I’m thrilled to be part of it. The arts and academy (including non-arts subjects) have much to give one another, but the bridges are not often easy to create. They take time, patience, and resources, and DisTIL allows for this. It’s exciting to think that these fellowships can palpably alter certain artists’ and academics’ process and output. I hope that this will spur other universities to start similar initiatives. Since I am a translator, I consider my role in part to translate between these two worlds and to negotiate their inevitable differences in productive ways.

Q: Wow, that is exciting to think about. What are you most looking forward to in your current role?

A: I’m excited that this work is breaking new ground. An uncharted course can be scary but it’s also exhilarating. I’m also just excited to be around artists and scholars with so much talent, vision, and guts. I feel lucky to learn from them and to help them create. I’m also really looking forward to teaching! It’s been a while since I’ve been in the classroom. I’m particularly excited because it will be a service learning course – I’ve never considered art separate from society and I’m really eager to show students how they intersect. It will also be great for me to get to know the community more.

Q: We really enjoy service learning courses and think you will too! Anything else that would be fun to know? 

A: I’ve set out on a mission to sample as many tacos in the Chapel Hill-Durham area as possible – recommendations welcome! I’m also looking forward to finding hikes in NC and celebrating the fact that I will not have to bear Northeastern winters by being outside as much as possible.

This is a great time of year to be outside! Alex, thank you so much for joining us. We look forward to the great work you will do!

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Latin American in Translation Series: They Should Stay Here


In conjunction with the release of  They Should Stay There: The Story of Mexican Migration and Repatriation during the Great Depression by Fernando Saúl Alanís Enciso (UNC Press, 2017), the UNC-Duke Consortium in Latin American & Caribbean studies is announcing the 2017 Call For Proposals for the Latin American Literature in Translation Series.

The book, first printed in Mexico in Spanish in 2007, is an excellent example of the Translation Series project to translate and publish in English outstanding books in a wide range of fields by important Latin American writers and scholars.

The book explores when the Great Depression took hold and the United States stepped up its enforcement of immigration laws and forced more than 350,000 Mexicans, including their U.S.-born children, to return to their home country. While the Mexican government was fearful of the resulting economic implications, President Lázaro Cárdenas fostered the repatriation effort for mostly symbolic reasons relating to domestic politics. In clarifying the repatriation episode through the larger history of Mexican domestic and foreign policy, Alanís connects the dots between the aftermath of the Mexican revolution and the relentless political tumult surrounding today’s borderlands immigration issues.

The deadline for 2017 submissions is October 20, 2017. Please see website for guidelines and instructions on how to submit: https://jhfc.duke.edu/latinamericauncduke/resources-2/translation-series/

The Latin America in Translation Series is a joint initiative of the UNC and Duke Consortium, Duke University Press (DUP), and the University of North Carolina Press (UNCP) and is directed by an editorial committee of faculty members and editors from the three sponsoring institutions. Since 1993, more than 40 books have been published in the series with more forthcoming regularly.


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Announcing new visiting lecture program: The ISA Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series

The Institute for the Study of the Americas is pleased to announce the establishment of a new visiting lecture program: The ISA Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series.  Made possible by a gift from an anonymous donor to the Director’s Fund for Excellence in Latin American Studies, the ISA Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series is designed to bring outstanding scholars to Carolina.  The program will bring to UNC a scholar who is expanding the boundaries of new knowledge about Latin America/Latino studies. The Lecture Series contemplates a general public lecture and extensive engagement with faculty, staff, and students.

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ISA Faculty Spotlight: John Bruno

The Institute for the Study of the Americas (ISA) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge of the Latin American experience in the Western Hemisphere. We were pleased to sit down with ISA faculty member and marine ecologist John Bruno, who researches marine biodiversity and macroecology, coral reef ecology and conservation, and the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems. Professor Bruno recently received a National Science Foundation grant to study how temperature affects marine food webs in the Galápagos Islands.

Prof. John Bruno

Q: Prof. Bruno, thank you for joining us. Can you tell us more about the application process for a National Science Foundation grant? 

A: First, we spent a few years collecting pilot data, basically proving what we proposed would actually work. Then we we wrote the proposal; 15 pages single-spaced for the main project description plus a dozen or so ancillary documents including a very detailed budget, and a data management plant. After submission you wait six months for the reviews and decision. The first time it wasn’t funded and we were asked to make a number of changes. We did and luckily – a mere five years after conception – the project was funded.

Q: Five years, wow! Congratulations again! Tell us about the work you will do and what outcomes you anticipate finding. 

A: The goal of the project is to understand how temperature affects marine food webs. Most marine animals are ecotherms, meaning their body temperature matches the temperature of seawater. The Galápagos are unique in that there is a very strong temperature gradient across the islands. This enables us to conduct experiments, measuring how temperature affects, for examples, the rate at which sea urchins eat algae and thus how much algae is left standing on the seafloor.

View from the Galápagos Islands; photo courtesy of John Bruno

Q: How does this relate to research you have conducted before?

A: The role of temperature has been a theme in my lab for a long time. Sometimes we perform experiments in aquariums in the lab. We also use satellite data on ocean temperature combined with ecological data to try to figure out how temperature is affecting the way marine ecosystems work. It’s important to test the outcomes of that work out in the real world, but you can’t really experimentally warm up part of the ocean. So this is a really exciting opportunity to take the next step in this work.

Q: We think it’s exciting too! What do you hope others can take away from this project?

A: We think the work could totally change the way marine ecologists think about these kinds of ecosystems.  The long-standing paradigm is that the amount of seaweed attached rocks on the sea floor or phytoplankton in the water column is controlled by nutrient availability. Currents periodically bring cold nutrient-rich water up from the deep and when that happens you see big blooms of algae in the ocean. Our work will test an alternative explanation for this phenomena: we think the colder water is greatly slowing down the metabolism and grazing rate of herbivores, which stop eating the algae.

Photo courtesy of John Bruno

But the big takeaway will be how ocean warming will affect the marine plants and animals in this system.  The Galápagos are projected to warm much faster than most regions and we currently have little understanding of how climate change will impact this unique ecosystem.

Q: We look forward to learning more. What is it like to be in the Galápagos?

A: Well, it’s a crazy place to work. Even though it’s on the equator, the water gets very cold in July and August. And it looks nothing like the tropical environments I’m used to working on in the Belize. In the Galápagos there are penguins, orcas, and sea lions! So it feels a lot more like northern California.

Sounds amazing. Thank you again for joining us, we look forward to seeing the results!

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Mexico Study Tour Helps NC Public School Teachers Bring Global Dimension to Classroom

Thank you to our friends at UNC Global. To see the original article, click here

Mexico Study Tour participant Carrie McMillan of Durham Public Schools talks with students at Escuela Mátires de Chicago, a public school in Progreso, Mexico.

In the three years since a group of teachers traveled to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to learn about a different education system and broaden their perspectives, they and their K-12 students are still reaping the benefits.

Betty Brandt Rouse, an English as a second language (ESL) teacher at Creekside Elementary School in Durham, recently reflected on a Mexico Study Tour she and fellow teachers took in 2014. “We were able to [talk] with teachers in Mexico and learn a lot about how their school system differs from our school system,” she said, “and to get to actually see it and be there hands-on. It was a really powerful experience.”

Rouse was one of eight North Carolina public school teachers who participated in the Mexico Study Tour organized by the Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, a collaboration between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute for the Study of the Americas and Duke University Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Participants attended a series of pre-trip workshops to prepare them for the experience. Once in Mexico, they spent nine days meeting with Mexican educators, visiting schools and historic sites, and engaging in multicultural experiences such as homestays and cooking classes.

Emily Chávez, outreach program coordinator for the consortium, designed and led the study tour with assistance from the site coordinator, Mariana Domínguez.

A teacher at Escuela Mátires de Chicago in Progreso, Mexico, works with a group of primary school students.

“I wanted the teachers to better understand their role as North Carolina teachers within a global context—and to understand that our lives and our privileges in the U.S. are inevitably intertwined with the people of Latin America and Mexico in particular,” explained Chávez. “I wanted the teachers to have a variety of experiences that got them thinking about the role of history, the role of political power, who shapes education, and what it means and what it takes to retain Maya culture and language within and outside Maya communities.”

One aspect of the program was creating new curriculum to implement in the classroom. Nicole Emmert, teacher librarian and school testing coordinator at Oak Lane Elementary School in Hurdle Mills, incorporated aspects of Maya culture and art into library studies. She’s installed art from around the world and has created exploratory centers and clubs based on the culture and ideas of other countries.

“I have maps and globes everywhere in the library for students to study and explore,” Emmert said. “They are more interested in other countries and ways of life now. Students are less intimidated about the idea of travel.”

Rouse brought back artifacts from her time in Mexico that she incorporates into her lessons—instruments, Maya toys and games, indigenous clothing, money and children’s books written in Mayan and English.

“The big point of the unit was students being able to tell how their lives are similar and different from kids’ lives in Mexico,” Rouse said. “One part was about sports, and one was including Maya literature…we took [that] compare-and-contrast and turned that into a literacy unit.”

North Carolina K-12 educators participating in the Mexico Study Tour await instruction at Instituto Mexico, a private school in Mérida, Mexico.

By adding these multicultural components to her lessons, through pictures and other objects, and drawing on her experiences abroad, Rouse is better able to connect to students in her ESL classes. Rouse has traveled to several of the places her students are from, including Mexico, Guatemala and parts of Africa. Experiencing different cultures has helped her become more accepting of difference, particularly in the classroom.

“Being able to get out of your little bubble and being able to be in and see another place and another perspective is very beneficial for teachers,” Rouse said. “The more you understand parts of the world, the more you realize how many different ways there are to do something, and the fewer assumptions you have for each of your students…You begin to see that there is a different story behind each person.”

Emmert agrees that these life lessons were an invaluable part of the Mexico Study Tour experience.

“I’m more laid back now, and I know that teaching life and social skills is just as important—if not more so, actually—as teaching curriculum,” Emmert said. “I’ve learned to take time to listen and learn from everyone you meet.”

“The Mexico Study Tour is one way the Consortium has worked with the K-12 community to strengthen and add depth to the way North Carolinians learn and teach about Latin America and Latin American communities,” explained Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz, executive director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas. “The combination of UNC and Duke’s scholarly expertise in the region and the immersive nature of the visit makes the tour a particularly effective learning tool for educators.

The Mexico Study Tour was made possible with funding from the U.S. Department of Education Title VI program for National Resource Centers.

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2017 Yucatec Maya Institute Photo Gallery

Modern Yucatec Maya is a modern language spoken by people living in the Yucatán Peninsula and northern Belize. Sponsored by the UNC-Duke Consortium, the Yucatec Maya Summer Institute offers beginning, intermediate and advanced level instruction of modern Yucatec Maya. The courses are open to students, faculty, and the public.

The Maya Summer Institute offers an intensive language learning environment that provides a solid foundation in Yucatec Maya combined with a field-based, experiential program. From beginning to advanced classes, students participate in meaningful engagement with Yucatec Maya communities through a combination of classroom and field activities. Students visit a range of important historic and cultural locations. Trips to archeological and colonial sites as well as other contemporary Mayan villages are led by Maya scholars, who will introduce them to the cultural importance of each site. Mérida, the beautiful capital of the state of Yucatán, offers both modern and historic aspects of city life. Izamal was an important site of pre-Columbian civilization. Today, Maya is the first language in the homes of the majority of the people of Izamal. Valladolid is home to an innovative Maya culture and language program that promotes intercultural learning and trains a new generation of Maya-speaking students. Xocen, situated 12 kilometers southeast of Valladolid, is located in the milpa area of the Mexican state of Yucatán. It is an ancient town that played a key role in the Caste War, a 50-yeat revolt of native Maya people against the political and economic forces controlling the region.

We hope you will enjoy photos from the 25th Yucatec Maya Institute below. Many thanks to Director Hannah Palmer for sharing!


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