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From the Director

Academic Year 2020-2021 . . . . A year in which time seemed to have come to a stand-still even as it raced by. The year remembered as something of a blur. Lock downs. Quarantines. Social distance. Zoom meetings–endlessly . . . . A deserted Carolina campus. The University as an unutilized physical plant. A wholly unsustainable condition, of course. Inevitably–and predictably–speculations of budget cuts. Institutional crises begetting program crises, begetting personnel crises, begetting crises of confidence. Days of uncertainty stretching into weeks, and then into months, and eventually into a year. A time of ad hoc administration. Improvised programming. Makeshift planning. The home space transformed into the work place. School-age children staying at home, college students staying away, and university colleagues staying apart. There was a time we contemplated virtual reality with curiosity. Not reality as virtual . . . .

All the while, we at ISA–not unlike colleagues and collaborators across the Carolina campus–strove to hold on to some kind of normal. To sustain the idea of community at a time we could not come together. To support graduate student research at a time when graduate students could not travel. To develop programs and organize events as ‘remote’ experiences. To relearn the pedagogy of undergraduate education through the technology of ‘distance learning,’ by way of new modes of ‘delivery’ (synchronous/asynchronous, hybrid), and by means of a new vernacular (break-out rooms, chat box, share screen, co-host, mute/unmute).

To look back on Academic Year 2020-2021 is to appreciate anew the ingenuity and resourcefulness with which Hannah Gill, Brianna Gilmore, Beatriz Riefkohl-Muñiz, Joanna Shuett, and Corin Zaragoza sustained the programmatic cohesion and the curricular integrity of all that we do at ISA, done with a grace and generosity of spirit that make those corner offices on the third floor of the GEC a very special place–even when we were not there . . . .

ISA Staff Meeting, Academic Year 2020-2021

ISA speaker programs were successfully sustained, including the Distinguished Lecture Series (Robin Derby, University of California at Los Angeles), Racism and the American Colonial Project Series (Bonnie Lucero, University of Houston); the annual George and Anne Platt Distinguished Lecture (Greg Grandin, Yale University); the ISA Faculty Lecture Series (Ariana Vigil, Women’s and Gender Studies); ISA Graduate Symposium (Mireya Soledad Jamal/Romance Studies and Mike Levine/Music).

Special ISA programming expanded deeply into the ever-widening virtual spaces, ‘hosting’ the visits of Mary Little (School for Field Studies at Costa Rica) and Olivia Sylvester (AgroEcoNet); Geoff Thale (President/Washington Office of Latin America); sponsoring the Core Ensemble chamber music production of ‘Los Valientes.’ A week-long Film Festival by way of ‘streaming.’
A series of ‘Visiting Lecturers’ who joined regularly scheduled Latin America courses.

ISA collaborative initiatives were sustained with colleagues across the Carolina campus, including programs with the Center for the Galapagos Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, University Libraries, and Romance Studies.

ISA responded to the pandemic by launching an educational pilot program to support on-line learning for K-5 students. The ‘Ayudantes Escolares Online’ program connected bilingual tutors with 36 elementary school students in 11 elementary schools in Durham Public Schools, Orange County Schools, Chatham County Schools, and Chapel-Hill Carrboro City Schools. Twenty-seven undergraduate and graduate students tutors volunteered more than 500 hours working with children.

The Duke-UNC Consortium programming proceeded mostly undeterred, including the 35th North Carolina Film Festival and the North Carolina Conference on Latin American Studies. The Yucatec Maya Institute registered another successful summer program: the only 2020 summer study abroad program at UNC. Working Group events enriched the year with programs sponsored by Latin American Politics Working Group (‘The Violence of Law and Order Politics: the Case of Law Enforcement Candidates in Brazil’) and the Working Group on Gender and Sexuality in Latin America and the Caribbean (‘The Sandinistas a Feminist Lens: A reading and discussion with Margaret Randall;’ ‘Women and Revolution;’ and ‘Fieldwork in Times of Crisis’).

Despite the travel limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Consortium Outreach Program continued to deepen its relationship with the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Ecuador. The Consortium partnered with UNC School of Education (SOE) to develop a virtual student exchange with the USFQ through the creation of the ‘Student Teachers Across Regions (STAR) of the Americas Virtual Exchange Program.’ Five UNC and five USFQ education students met monthly to discuss contemporary educational issues affecting both countries and to collaborate on education-related projects. The Outreach Program also worked in cooperation with Kristin Papoi (UNC/Education) and Nascira Ramia (USFQ/Education) to receive a COIL Partnership Award to incorporate an international activity in EDUC 615, ‘Schools and Community Collaboration.’

Academic Year 2020-2021 was the inaugural year of the Haiti Teacher Fellows Program, a new and innovative program for high school and community college educators. Thirteen Fellows from Arizona, Connecticut, the Dominican Republic, Florida, Illinois, Montana, North Carolina, and Texas participated in a virtual, year-long, intensive study of the history and culture of Haiti. Participants discussed how to incorporate the study of Haiti in French, sociology, history, composition, and literature classes and had the opportunity to engage with a diverse group of speaker, including Crystal Eddins (sociologist), Andrew Walker (historian), Jacques Pierre (Haitian Creole instructor), Laura Wagner (anthropologist), and Holly Ackerman (librarian).

The Latino Migration Project (LMP) conducted a report on racial and ethnic disparities for the city of Sanford’s racial equity initiative. The LMP’s Building Integrated Communities (BIC), a community planning and leadership initiative that partners with local governments, completed projects that established new action plans for immigrant leadership in Chapel Hill. In September 2020, Building Integrated Communities was invited by the city of Sanford to facilitate the Sanford Equity Task Force, composed of 13 municipal leaders charged with examining and making recommendations to dismantle racial and ethnic disparities in the region in key areas that include criminal justice, health care, workforce development and housing inequality. The BIC team conducted research to inform recommendations, co-facilitate public meetings, design bilingual forms, conduct surveys, and document the process. A new grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation enabled BIC to start a new partnership with the city of Washington, NC, and launch a statewide communications initiative to share best practices with local governments. In March 2020, Building Integrated Communities (BIC) signed an MOU with the city of Washington BIC. The BIC team completed a Community Assessment in partnership with a stakeholder group of City staff and community-based organizations.

The Newcomers Symposium convened statewide audiences for a third year, this time as a free virtual event. More than 120 people attended the Symposium from 22 different North Carolina counties to learn about how municipal governments are expanding leadership to immigrant residents.

And in the midst of difficult and trying times, occasions to celebrate. Books were published: Rosa Perelmuter (Romance Studies); Raúl Neocochea (Medicine/History); Emil Keme (Romance Studies). Honors bestowed: Arturo Escobar (Anthropology/Emeritus) elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Awards: Maya Berry (AAAD) recipients of the 2021 Johnson Teaching Excellence Award. Promotions: Juan Carlos González Espitia (Romance Studies) promoted to Professor. And we are especially delighted to welcome to the Carolina Latin Americanist community Ana María Silva, who will join the History faculty in Academic Year 2021-2022.

We wish our colleagues and collaborators a safe and productive summer–and with eager anticipation of seeing everyone in person next Fall Semester.

Lou Pérez
June 2021

ISA Staff dinner
ISA Staff celebrating end of Academic Year 2020-2021