Meet Latin American Studies (LTAM) Alumni

LTAMfeatured alumni_2

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 were pleased to sit down with a number of LTAM alumni who are located across the world, from Washington, D.C., to France. Learn more about our featured alumni below, and consider the LTAM major today!

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Congratulations, Dr. Stephen Anderson! UNC Department of Music professor nominated for Latin Grammy Awards



Credit: University Gazette

ISA wishes to congratulate Dr. Stephen Anderson of the UNC Department of Music for his newly published “The Dominican Jazz Project” CD, released by Summit Records. A collaborative project between American and Dominican musicians, the CD offers original fusions of American jazz forms with multiple genres of Dominican music. “The Dominican Jazz Project” has been nominated for the forthcoming Latin Grammy Awards in the categories of “Best New Artist” and “Best Jazz CD.”

Congratulations, Dr. Anderson!

Read the feature from the University Gazette (below) or click here for the online article.

Published April 5, 2016

North, Central America mix it up in Dominican Jazz Project

In March, Summit Records released the Dominican Jazz Project, an international musical collaboration led by Stephen Anderson, pianist, composer and associate professor of jazz and composition in the Department of Music. Here, Anderson shares more about the project.

How did the Dominican Jazz Project come about?

Dominican-born jazz artist Guillo Carias invited me to perform with him and local players for the 2014 Jazzomania Jazz Festival in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, an event hosted by the Quisqueya 96.1 FM jazz radio program. The concert and associated clinic went beautifully, and the drummer, Guy Frómeta, invited me to return to Santo Domingo to perform with him in his group for the Casa de Teatro Jazz Festival a few months later. It was there that I met Sandy Gabriel, tenor saxophonist. Our collective friendship grew further with that experience and, following the festival, we agreed to record together.

What was it like to combine American jazz and the music played in the Dominican Republic?

What intrigued me when I visited the Dominican Republic is that while Dominican musicians are very much at home playing Afro-Cuban/clave-based music, their traditional music also has a variety of other lesser known grooves that are not commonly played in Latin jazz today outside of the Dominican Republic. And while the Dominican piano tumbao patterns sound similar to Cuban montuno patterns [basic rhythms played on the bass, conga or piano], they are constructed differently harmonically and rhythmically. I was also surprised that my Dominican friends were so interested in modern American jazz.

Who wrote the music for this collaborative project?

After returning home, I spent several months deeply researching Dominican music, transcribing various piano tumbao patterns, as well as other traditional grooves, like the Mangulina, Pambiche, Ga-Ga and the Palo. Based on these and other grooves, I composed five new charts for the project, and I invited Sandy Gabriel and Guillo Carias [Dominican trumpet player and bandleader] to submit compositions. Guitarist/singer/songwriter Carlos Luís also composed three pieces.

Tell us about the musicians who joined you for the project.

The Americans in the band, in addition to myself, are Juan Álamo, an assistant professor of music at Carolina, who played congas, and Jeffry Eckels, adjunct jazz bass faculty member at the University of North Texas, who played bass.

The rest of the musicians were my Dominican friends. Guy Frómeta has been playing the drums since he was 5 years old. Guy developed a unique style infused by the culture of New York, influenced by an eclectic mixture of elements from rock and Latin jazz.

Percussionist David Almengod, from Santo Domingo, has performed in dozens of jazz festivals around the world. Aside from his work as a percussionist, he remains active producing music for films and jingles, and he is an active educator in his own percussion school.

Guillo Carias is a well-known trumpet player and bandleader, but for this project, he played the clavietta. That is an instrument that has a musical keyboard on top, and is played by blowing air through a mouthpiece that fits into a hole in the side of the instrument. Pressing a key opens a hole, allowing air to flow through a reed.

Sandy Gabriel played tenor and soprano saxophone and composed pieces for the project. His compositions, in some ways, are very similar to the aesthetic that I’ve been developing in the Stephen Anderson Trio recordings in recent years. Though his father gave him his first instruction, Sandy is largely a self-taught saxophonist, having no formal training in school programs.

Guitarist and singer Carlos Luis was born in Havana, Cuba, but moved to the Dominican Republic and has been performing and recording there ever since. I heard Carlos on my first trip to Santo Domingo, when Guillo and his family and I went to dinner at a restaurant. We were seated out back by the pool where Carlos was performing on a small stage. The waiter brought out an enormous plate of beef for us to eat, and I sat completely transfixed as Carlos performed his beautiful com- positions for solo guitar and voice. I could have listened all night. Though I did not have the opportunity to speak to Carlos then, I later determined to invite him to join the Dominican Jazz Project.

How did everyone come together to record the songs?

I invited my Dominican friends to join me as guests for the 2015 UNC Summer Jazz Workshop as performers and coaches, and the recordings we made together in the days that followed (June 22-23, 2015) are featured on this CD.

To find out more about the Dominican Jazz Project, visit

Listen to samples of the music here:


Stephen Anderson is an associate professor in jazz studies and composition and performs and records with the Stephen Anderson Trio. He has released five CDs on the Summit Records label. Anderson’s classical and jazz compositions have been performed by ensembles throughout the United States, including the West Point Military Academy Band and the Dallas Chamber Orchestra. He received two commissions from the Barlow Endowment as well as several teaching awards.

The Dominican Jazz Project was funded primarily by the Chapman Family Faculty Fellowship teaching award he won in fall 2014. Winners of the award receive a semester’s leave as a fellow at the Institute for the Arts and Humanities and a stipend of $10,000. Additional funding for the project came from the College of Arts and Sciences, the American studies and folklore departments, the Center for the Study of the American South, the Department of Music and donor John Powell.

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Associate Director Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz wins 2016 Distinguished Service Award


“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

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


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, 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 Follow Mezcla on Twitter at @mezcla_unc.


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, 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 Follow Samaa on twitter at @UNCSamaa.


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, join their Facebook page or visit their website,

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Director Lou Pérez featured in University “Well Said” podcast


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


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


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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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


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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