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.
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!
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.