Generous gift for creation of the Director’s Fund for Excellence in Latin American Studies

The Institute for the Study of the Americas is pleased to announce the receipt of a generous gift of $50,000 for the creation of the Director’s Fund for Excellence in Latin American Studies. The fund will serve the strategic priorities of the Curriculum of Latin American studies, including but not limited to faculty and student support, public lectures, and program events. The Curriculum serves as the undergraduate major in Latin American Studies (LTAM), a baccalaureate program within the College of Arts and Sciences that spans multiple interdisciplinary thresholds in the social sciences, humanities, and arts. The LTAM major is designed to foster intellectual engagement with a region of extraordinary diversity and rich cultural complexity, a region that includes Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. The program offers students multi-disciplinary perspectives as a way to knowledge of the rich history, culture, politics, literature, and arts of Latin America.

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Press Release: Public Conversation on Transnational Black Feminisms

In celebration of Black History Month, Winston-Salem State University will host a public conversation on “Transnational Black Feminisms: Black Women’s Activism in Brazil and the Americas,” on Wednesday, February 8, at 2 pm, in Diggs Gallery. The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature invited scholars Dr. Kia Caldwell and Dr. Keisha-Khan Perry, and WSSU scholars Dr. Michele Lewis and Dr. Uchenna Vasser. Dr. Corey D. B. Walker, Dean of the College and John W. and Anna Hodgin Hanes Professor of the Humanities, will moderate the discussion. The conversation will center on the impact of Black women scholars and activists globally. The panelists will share their research on the work of Black women activists in Brazil, the US, and the Americas, and discuss the continuing need for Black women in the diaspora to organize, mobilize, and resist via knowledge production and activism, particularly in light of the implications of changing political leadership in Brazil and the U.S. for Black women.

Caldwell is an Associate Professor, African, African American & Diaspora Studies, and Director of Faculty Diversity Initiatives, College of Arts and Sciences, UNC-Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on race, gender, health policy, HIV/AIDS, and human rights in Brazil and the U.S. Her book, Negras in Brazil: Re-envisioning Black Women, Citizenship, and the Politics of Identity, was published by Rutgers University Press. Her new book Health Equity in Brazil: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Policy will be published by the University of Illinois Press in 2017. Dr. Caldwell is also the co-editor, with Dr. Sonia Alvarez, of a recent two-part special issue of the journal Meridians focusing on Afro-descendant Feminisms in the America. She received her A.B. in Spanish Literature and Civilization from Princeton University. She completed her M.A. in Latin American Studies and Ph.D. in Social Anthropology with a specialization in African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

Perry is an Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and Visiting Fellow in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. Her research focuses on race, gender and social movements in the Americas, urban geography and questions of citizenship, black women’s intellectual history, and the interrelationship between scholarship, pedagogy and political engagement. Winner of the National Women’s Studies Association 2014 Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Award, her first book Black Women against the Land Grab: The Fight for Racial Justice in Brazil (University of Minnesota Press, 2013) is an ethnographic study of black women’s activism in Brazilian cities, especially in neighborhood movements for land and housing rights. She is currently writing her second book, Anthropology for Liberation: Research, Writing and Teaching for Social Justice. Perry completed her Ph.D. at the University of Texas-Austin, in the African Diaspora Program in Anthropology.

Lewis is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences at Winston-Salem State University. She has presented to audiences interested in minority health, African-centered psychology, and Black Studies. She specifically writes about and speaks about the significance of including homo-attractional and gender non-conforming people of African descent in outreach and research. She is the author of two books, Multicultural Health Psychology: Special Topics Acknowledging Diversity (Allyn and Bacon, 2002); and LGBT Psychology: Research Perspectives and People of African Descent (Springer, 2012). Lewis earned the Ph.D. and M.S. degrees at Howard University, and the B.S. degree at old Dominion University.

Vasser is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Chair, Department of World Languages and Cultures, Winston-Salem State University. Her areas of research and scholarship include Afro-Colombian and Afro-Cuban literatures focusing on such themes as transculturation, cultural hybridity, women and the environment, and identity construction. Among her recent publications are “Visions from the Margins: Miguel Barnet’s Biografía de un cimarrón and Ivor Miller’s Voice of the Leopard” (2015), “Africanidad and the Representation of the Female Character in Three Novels by Manuel Zapata Olivella” (2014), and “The Double Bind: Women and the Environment in Chambacú, Black Slum and A Saint is Born in Chimá by Manuel Zapata Olivella” (2013). Vasser earned the Ph.D. in Romance Languages from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the M.A. in Romance Languages and Literatures from the Ohio State University, and the B.A. in Psychology and Spanish from Schiller International University.

Caldwell and Perry will also visit classes, and lead an informal faculty roundtable on “Decolonizing Brazilian Studies” to continue WSSU’s intellectual engagement with decolonizing knowledge through a discussion of Bahia/Brazil, and women’s studies at WSSU centering on Black women’s scholarship and activism.

The program is co-sponsored by the WSSU Office of International Programs, the College of Arts, Sciences, Business and Education, and the Institute for the Study of the Americas at UNC-Chapel Hill. For more information, contact OIP at 336-750-2306.

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Call for Applications: 2017 College Educators Research Fellowship

Call for Proposals | Application

Deadline: Feb. 24, 2017

The UNC-Duke Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies is pleased to invite applications for the 2017 College Educators Research Fellowship. The deadline for applications is February 24, 2017.

The UNC and Duke Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, with funds from the U.S. Department of Education, provides two college educators the opportunity to work as visiting research scholars with the Latin American and Caribbean library collections at Duke and UNC. Fellows are chosen in a competition targeting regional faculty from institutions of higher education in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic, with preference for regular faculty from community colleges and HBCUs. The project must have a clear focus on Latin America or the Caribbean. Priority is given to proposals that create a new course or add substantial content to an existing course at the applicant’s institution.

Please see the above Call for Proposals for more details.

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Taking the road less traveled: Spotlight on UNC alum and South American traveler Michelle Carreño

Through leadership development, experiential learning, and engaged service, UNC alumni have had an incredible impact through our programs, and continue to make their mark in their careers. One of these professionals we had the pleasure of connecting with is Michelle Carreño.


Carreño in Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

After graduating from UNC and participating in the APPLES Global Course Guanajuato, Carreño moved to Colombia to become a bilingual World History middle school teacher with plans to eventually travel around South America alone.

“Traveling solo has been something I have always wanted to do ever since I can remember,” Carreño said. “The idea of going to a foreign place: meeting new people, learning about a new culture, a new language, trying new types of food, dancing different types of music, visiting new places, making decisions on my own from the smallest to the biggest ones and all of this ‘solo’ sounded so fascinating to me, and especially in Latin America with an indefinite time.”

While a student at UNC, Carreño took LTAM classes and instantly connected to the material.

“I did not realize how passionate and interested I became with Latin American studies when I first took classes,” Carreño said. “It was something so natural to me… I truly believe I felt I was searching my identity and learning where I came from.”

Being the daughter of Colombian immigrants, Carreño wanted to explore that side of her identity and moved to Colombia after graduation with the intention of teaching for a couple of years and then traveling alone. After the first year ended and it was time to resign her contract, Carreño made the difficult decision to pursue her solo travel dreams sooner than she intended.


Carreño (above) is a Guanajuato alum

And it paid off.

“What many people do not realize is that traveling brings heaps of enriching perks to our lives and helps humans become stronger,” Carreño said. “Additionally, I soon realized in my travels, you never travel alone because you meet millions of people disposed to give you a hand and share with you your path if it’s for 5 minutes to a few hours to days to months to years.”

Seven countries later, Carreño has taken advantage of her time in South America. Whether camping, hiking, or meeting new people, Carreño explored places in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina. She was even able to meet up with her brother to explore the Amazon and Brazil.

When it comes to traveling solo, Carreño encourages others to do the same.

“I decided to take this trip through Latin America because it has been one of my dreams and I also wanted to empower women, especially Latinas, that they can travel ‘sola’ through their own continent,” Carreño said. “You will grow in so many ways. Best of all, you will see how you’re not either from here nor there and that we are all world citizens/darte cuenta que no eres ni de aquí ni de allá y que todos somos ciudadanos del mundo.”

Whether she is in South America traveling solo or back in the States, you can find Carreño dancing, doing yoga, hiking, swimming, reading, and of course, traveling.

Thank you so much for sharing your adventure with us, Michelle! We can’t wait to hear more!

See more of Michelle’s adventure below:



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‘Castro Was a Living Reminder of the Limits of American Power’–FAIR Media Watch interviews Louis Pérez about the influence of Fidel Castro

See the original post here

Janine Jackson: Fidel Castro, who died November 25 at age 90, will be remembered as someone whose work changed, not just Cuba, but the wider world. With US media ringing with denunciation—with some left over to denunciate those who aren’t denunciating enough—there’s little oxygen left for discussion of that work, and what it meant and still means.

We’re joined now for some context on Castro and Cuba by Louis Pérez. He’s professor of history at the University of North Carolina and editor of Cuban Journal, and author of, among other titles, Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution. He joins us now by phone from North Carolina. Welcome to CounterSpin, Louis Pérez.

Louis Perez: Good day.

JJ: To hear the TV talkers tell it, Fidel Castro was not just an evil monster, he was a sort of Svengali who somehow tricked millions of people into supporting his project. There’s a sense that the only reason not to despise him is delusion. And that seems to disavow any agency on the part of the Cuban people, among other things; they’re seen as engaging in some sort of idol worship. I have heard you say that Fidel resonates because the Cuban Revolution resonates. Can you give us some context for why that’s the case?

LP: The most extraordinary facet of the coverage of the last five, six days in this country has been the utter lack of self-reflection and ignorance of context, and I think you’ve used the word “context” already twice in your introductory comments. It is so easy and so facile to focus on one man—Americans love the Great Man thesis—one man to whom one can attribute everything that torments one. It is so easy to identify the outcomes in Cuba, the outcomes in Central America, the outcomes in Africa to one guy.

That liberates anybody from exploring context, from exploring process, from exploring history, from understanding how this phenomenon that Fidel Castro represents unfolds. And so what we have here is just a utterly one-dimensional assessment of the past and the present, and Fidel Castro was that evil person to whom one can attribute everything that one doesn’t like about the world.

JJ: When Cubans talk about it, of course, there’s a completely different approach to it, and a completely different kind of reckoning with it. But, as you say, US readers have gotten, first of all, very little information, period, but then also the information has been kind of cartoonish. So what can you tell—and also for younger folks who don’t know—what was the Cuban Revolution, what did it signify, what did it change?

LP: The Cuban Revolution comes out of a history, comes out of a struggle by a people that has its antecedents in the middle of the 19th century, and it represents successive generations of Cubans who aspire—however unlikely it would appear, coming from a little country, a small population—the Cuban historical purpose for 150 years has been given to the pursuit of self-determination and national sovereignty. If the Cuban Revolution is about anything, it’s about self-determination and national sovereignty. And so that’s an idea that goes back to the 1850s, and it’s articulated by Jose Martí in the 1880s and 1890s, and it continues to circulate, and it becomes a politics in Cuba with the inauguration of a republic in 1902.

So Fidel Castro comes out of that history. He is formed by that sensibility. And so what the Cuban Revolution represents in January 1959—and certainly this is a point that Fidel Castro makes—it is the culmination of a process. It is, finally, a people who have achieved self-determination and national sovereignty, and the obstacle in the 19th century was Spain, and the obstacle in the 20th century was the United States. So the Revolution comes with this purpose of affirming Cuba for Cubans, and finally the prospects of agency, of seizing hold of those forces that govern one’s life, and that means, inevitably, to reduce the presence and the influence of the United States in Cuba.

And that’s the one condition that since the 19th century the United States was not willing to acquiesce to Cuba. From Jefferson until George W. Bush and perhaps even Obama, the idea of Cuban national sovereignty and self-determination has been and it continues to be an anathema.

JJ: As in other places as well, but I think it’s such an important understanding of the relationship. Reuters in their write-up said that Castro “built a Communist state on the doorstep of the United States,” which I find funny, as though the proximity of this tiny island were an affront or a provocation to the United States.
It reminds me of the comic and activist Professor Irwin Corey, who was a big supporter of the Revolution. He told my colleague Steve Rendall that he had complained to Castro, “For 40 years, you’ve refused to remove your country from around our military base.”

LP: [laughs] It is, of course, the relationship with the world superpower, it is that sovereignty that drew the admiration of people, of oppressed people, the world over, that defiance. And how strange to present it still today as a threat to the United States.

LP: I think the word you use is correct, the affront. Fidel Castro was a breathing, living reminder of the limits of American power. How is it possible that the United States could not do something about this guy? And successive generations of American political leaders, 11 presidential administrations, more or less all take power saying they’re going to do something about Fidel Castro. The presidential terms come and go and he’s still there. And he survives the collapse of the Soviet Union. And the Cuban Revolution continues, admittedly limping, but still continues to survive.

So I think it’s that defiance that just galled Americans, the inability to will the world according to their wishes in a place that they had always willed the world. There’s something profoundly psychological. Fidel Castro becomes a highly personal issue to Americans, and the multiple attempts to assassinate — can’t make it any more personal than that.

JJ: What you’re talking about, the importance of sovereignty, that, as I understand it, became an overweening focus on sovereignty, and then the security state that is understandably lamented. Now, you see that as a kind of cautionary tale.

LP: That’s exactly how I see it. I see the Cuban developments. Does the system resort to repressive techniques? Absolutely. Has it spawned an elaborate surveillance and intelligence system? Absolutely. It has done all these things.

I think it’s important to bear in mind that this has a context. This was a state, a government, administration, rulers, who were confronted with the most powerful country in the world, that had as a single overriding determination, regime change.

And when the Cubans invoke national security, then all bets are off, as we are learning in this country. When one invokes national security, then civil liberties, constitutional freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of thought—that space begins to contract, get smaller and smaller.
And, again, when I said earlier the lack of self-reflection, I think anybody has to go to the Alien and Sedition Laws at the end of the 18th century, after the American Revolution, when the Americans felt threatened by the French, and they passed the sedition laws. And anybody who published or said anything against the United States government would be subject to imprisonment. And how about the Japanese-Americans who the United States, feeling threatened by Japan, rounded up, tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans, and put them in camps.

So it’s that lack of context, it’s that lack of appreciation. It’s like people say, wow, the economy’s in shambles in Cuba. It is. But to what degree is the shambles of the Cuban economy the outcome of a punitive embargo that had as its direct purpose to make the Cuban economy one of shambles? So it is this loop of opinion that feeds on itself, and we just can’t seem to break or get out of it.

JJ: Well, let me just ask you, finally: We had started to see, it was being called a “thaw,” we saw some diplomatic relations being established earlier this year with Cuba. Now, you know, things are different. What do you imagine happening now, in terms of the relationship between the United States and Cuba, and what do you think would serve Cubans?

LP: If the new, incoming administration presumes to act on the utterances of this past weekend, then I think anybody, any persons of good will, any persons who derive comfort at the process of normalization of the last two years, cannot but despair and feel very anxious. The words of the president-elect, saying that he wants to withdraw the “concessions,” quote unquote, unless the Cubans, among other things, open up their economy for market reform, free political prisoners, hold elections, allow political parties—we are now going to be plunged back to the worst days of…I don’t even know what the comparison would be, the Reagan years, the George W. Bush years.

Because these are the demands that the Cubans have resisted for 55 years. Because this is, again, a throwback to the curtailment and the challenge to the Cuban insistence upon self-determination and national sovereignty. So if these folks who are coming in in January proceed to act on those politics, then we’re in for some very, very difficult times in US/Cuban relations.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Louis Pérez, professor of history at the University of North Carolina and author of, among other books, Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution. Louis Pérez, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

LP: You’re very welcome.

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LTAM Alumni Spotlight: Luis González Chávez

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.


Luis González Chávez

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Luis González Chávez.

Before graduating as a LTAM and Political Science double major, González knew he wanted to study Latin American Studies.

“I picked UNC because of LTAM studies program,” González said.

Having personal ties and interests in Colombia, González wasted no time. During his first week of being a UNC first-year student, González looked at a campus map and found the Institute for the Study of the Americas. He knocked on Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz‘s door and found the major was a great fit for his interests and passion.

“It’s great if you love Latin America, love learning about the region, and if you really want an interdisciplinary study—learning about music, art, and history all link well with another major,” González said.


González spent one year in Uruguay

As an undergraduate student at UNC, González did more than study. He danced with UNC’s premiere Latin dance group Qué Ríco, participated in an alternative fall break with farm worker communities, conducted research at the Center for Bioethics, and received a LTAM Halpern award to support his one year of study in Uruguay at the Universidad de Montevideo. While abroad, González took the opportunity to travel around the southern cone of South America to pursue his interests in Argentina and Brazil, which complemented his LTAM major studies well.

After visiting 10 Latin American countries and finishing up his undergraduate studies, González knew he wanted to pursue graduate course work . Inspired by UNC scholars like John Chasteen, Louis Pérez, Cynthia Radding, and Arturo Escobar, González decided to take advantage of the UNC LTAM partnership, one of only 16 universities, who partner with Georgetown University to allow qualified Latin American studies majors to earn a Master’s degree in Latin American studies.

One day González hopes to teach Latin American history in Latin America. Until then, when he’s not preparing for his Master’s degree at Georgetown University, González can be found dancing or being a master with a yo-yo.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Luis! We can’t wait to see all the awesome things you will do!


LTAM Major


Stand out in the NEW South
Explore. The LTAM major offers opportunities to travel to Latin America for field work and study while you are here at UNC, including ISA scholarships for LTAM majors wishing to undertake study in Latin America and the Caribbean. As an LTAM major, you are highly competitive for these scholarships.

Catalyze. The LTAM major also offers high quality advising and personal attention, which are hard to find at a big place like UNC. Departmental advisor, Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz can help you decide if this is a good major for you, select courses that fulfill requirements, plan a complete educational program, and learn about academic policies and procedures.

Lead. The Latin American studies major prepares students for graduate school and public and private sector careers such as in education, business, public health, law, communication, and government, among others. LTAM majors have gotten jobs in the U.S. State Department in a number of different Latin American countries, in non-profit organizations working with migrants in the U.S., and in transnational companies that operate in the U.S. and Latin America. Read their stories here.

B.A. /M.A. Program with Georgetown
The Curriculum in Latin American Studies participates in a cooperative BA/MA program with the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University. The agreement allows qualified Latin American studies majors to earn a Masters in Latin American studies in a year and a summer following their senior year at UNC.

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Congratulations to 2016 Learning through Languages participants


The Learning Through Languages High School Research Symposium is a unique way for students to conduct and present preliminary research their language of study. Students from nine North Carolina high schools presented projects on Dec. 8, 2016 in six different languages-Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish.

Teams were judged by UNC and Duke faculty, instructional staff and graduate students. We hope you will enjoy photos from the event (below):


Carolina Asia Center

Center for European Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill

Center for Global Initiatives, UNC-Chapel Hill

Department of Asian Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill

Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies

Institute for the Study of the Americas, UNC-Chapel Hill

Qatar Foundation International

UNC-Duke Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies

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Congratulations to LTAM major, Luis Gonzalez Chávez


Luis (left) pictured with his parents at the ISA 10th Annual Faculty Dinner

We were pleased to congratulate LTAM major Luis Gonzalez Chávez on Dec. 8, 2016 at the Institute for the Study of the Americas 10th Annual Facuty Dinner.  Following his December graduation, Gonzalez Chávez will start his graduate studies at Georgetown in the spring.

Congratulations, Luis!

About the LTAM major

Stand out in the NEW South

Explore. The LTAM major offers opportunities to travel to Latin America for field work and study while you are here at UNC, including ISA scholarships for LTAM majors wishing to undertake study in Latin America and the Caribbean. As an LTAM major, you are highly competitive for these scholarships.

Catalyze. The LTAM major also offers high quality advising and personal attention, which are hard to find at a big place like UNC. Departmental advisor, Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz can help you decide if this is a good major for you, select courses that fulfill requirements, plan a complete educational program, and learn about academic policies and procedures.

Lead. The Latin American studies major prepares students for graduate school and public and private sector careers such as in education, business, public health, law, communication, and government, among others. LTAM majors have gotten jobs in the U.S. State Department in a number of different Latin American countries, in non-profit organizations working with migrants in the U.S., and in transnational companies that operate in the U.S. and Latin America. Read their stories here.


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Rev. Erika Martínez Flores receives 2016 Sharon S. Mújica Community Service Award


Rev. Erika Martínez Flores

Rev. Erika Martínez Flores received the 2016 Sharon S. Mújica Community Service Award Thursday, Dec. 8, 2015, at the 10th Annual Institute for the Study of the Americas Faculty Dinner. This award is given annually by the Institute for the Study of the Americas to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to Latin American and Latino communities in North Carolina.

“It is a great honor to receive this award,” Rev. Martínez Flores said, thanking her community for practicing social justice and creating an inclusive cultural place.

As part of Sanford Building Integrated Communities, Rev. Erika Martínez Flores helped lead the Planning Committee to support Lee County’s immigrant and Hispanic residents. After analyzing the data of over 300 immigrant and Hispanic county residents, the Planning Committee worked to streamline strategies that would advance communication, improve public transportation, and support Hispanic leadership and engagement in local government into a single, comprehensive plan. This action plan was unanimously endorsed by the City of Sanford City Council and the Lee County Board of Commissioners.

Past recipients of the Sharon S. Mújica award include Blanca Zendejas Neinhaus, Jerry Markatos, Florence Simán, Ilana Dubester, Cassandra Daniels and Alvena Heggins, Gail Phares and Sarah Plastino.


Building Integrated Communities (BIC) is a statewide initiative that helps North Carolina local governments successfully engage with immigrants and refugee populations in order to improve public safety, promote economic development, enhance communication, and improve relationships. As a result of working with BIC, local governments and diverse community stakeholders have the tools to generate locally-relevant strategies to strengthen immigrant civic engagement, linguistic achievement, and economic/educational advancement.

The program is supported by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

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Conflict Management: The Practice of Negotiation and Mediation

Shai Tamari is the Associate Director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he administers a federal grant in support of Middle East studies on campus. He is also a lecturer under the Department of Public Policy, Department of Political Science, and the Curriculum in Peace, War, and Defense at UNC, where he teaches “Conflict Management: The Practice of Negotiation & Mediation” to undergraduate and graduate students.

On Dec. 3, 2016, a total of 18 students spent around 6 hours negotiating over a conflict relating to the Mayans in Guatemala in 1990s. Enjoy some photos from the event (below).


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