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From the Director

With the memory of Commencement 2023 still fresh in our thoughts, we at the Institute for the Study of the Americas look back upon Academic Year 2022-2023 and give ourselves permission to strike a self-satisfied pose with the achievements of year-long planning and successfully executed programming. We are pleased to announce that the Duke-UNC Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies competed successfully for the Department of Education Title VI grant. In fact–moreover–the Department of Education evaluation registered a perfect score for the Consortium NRC application and the loss of a single point for the FLAS application. We will aspire to do better next time around . . . .

A robust speaker programming during academic year 2022-2023 included the George and Anne Platt Distinguished Lecture by Professor María Cristina García (Cornell University). The Faculty Lecture Series forum included the presentation by Deshira Wallace (UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health). In discharge of the Title VI mandated programming of “Root Causes of Central American Migration,” ISA hosted presentations by Molly Todd (Montana State University) and Héctor Pérez-Brignoli (Universidad de Costa Rica). Also noteworthy were the presentations by Emily Taylor (University of North Carolina) and Julisa García (Promotores de la Liberación Migrante) on indigenous Guatemalan perspectives on migration and Adriana María Cortés Jiménez (Fundación Comunitaria del Bajío) on sustainable community development in Mexico. By arrangement with the office of Homeland Security, ISA hosted the presentation by Special Agent Jeffrey Farragher, who spoke on Homeland Security policies related to Cultural Property, Art, and Antiquities program, with specific reference to the recovery and repatriation of pilfered Cuban nineteenth-century manuscripts and archival records that entered illegally into the United States.

Academic year 2022-2023 was noteworthy for another successful North Carolina/Conference on Latin American Studies, hosted by the Consortium at Duke University in February 2023. NC/CLAS 2023 attracted an estimated 250 registrants, representing organizations from across the state, including colleges, universities, high schools, public school districts, and community organizations. The program included 18 panels and 9 roundtables, more than 80 presentations, and a total of more than 100 panelists and moderators from colleges and universities across the state of North Carolina.

ISA collaborative initiatives were sustained with programs, academic units, and colleagues across the Carolina campus, including collaborations with the Departments of Anthropology, Geography, Music, Political Science, Romance Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies, as well as co-sponsorships with the Carolina Latinx Center, the Curriculum of Global Studies, the UNC Latina/o Studies Program, University Libraries, and the Morehead Planetarium.

The commitment to broad public outreach initiatives–so very much a hallmark feature of ISA programming–expanded its reach during Academic Year 2022-2023. We were pleased to host the return visit to Carolina of the Core Ensemble. The production of “Las Magníficas,” a chamber music theater piece dedicated to the lives of Violeta Parra, Chavela Vargas, and Celia Cruz, was performed in the presence of an appreciative University and community at-large audience. The second annual “Southern Skies: Stories from Latin America” was held in collaboration with Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. The Spanish-English bilingual event featured stories about science, history, and culture from the Maya and Inca civilizations projected onto the planetarium dome to a sold out family audience. The 37th Annual Latin American Film Festival screened a total of 18 films from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and from Latino communities in the United States.

We are especially pleased to report that during Academic Year 2022-2023 ISA distributed nearly $358,000 in support of undergraduate research projects, graduate student training and recruitment, professional development, language training, research support, and travel subsidy. Support for faculty professional development, including research and travel, program initiatives, and curriculum development, surpassed $35,000.

New colleagues have joined the expanding ISA family. Skylar Zee joins the ISA as the new Consortium Outreach Coordinator. Skylar coordinates outreach programs and events for the educational community and the general public. She previously served as a social studies teacher in Durham Public Schools. Skylar holds an undergraduate degree in History and an MAT from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Skylar will develop and coordinate educational outreach services to pre-service and in-service K-12 teachers, 4-year and community colleges.

Programs under the Latino Migration Project/Building Integrated Communities have expanded in scope and diversity, registering the presence of ISA and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in important community venues across the state. We are delighted to welcome Susan Clifford as Language Access Coordinator for the Building Integrated Communities (BIC) initiative at ISA. Susan prepares and facilitates a hybrid language access training course for teams of NC local governments and community partners. Susan holds an undergraduate degree in Sociology from the College of William & Mary and received MSW and MPH degrees at UNC-Chapel Hill. We are pleased also to welcome Emily Spangenberg as Bilingual Program Coordinator for the BIC initiative. As Program Coordinator, Emily facilitates participatory planning processes between local governments and community partners in North Carolina. Emily completed her undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in journalism, political science, and Spanish. Emily received an MA degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

To pause and reflect back on Academic Year 2022-2023 allows us also the time to dwell with a sense of awe at the personal dedication and the professional commitment with which the members of the ISA staff sustain the multifaceted programs of Latin American Studies at the University of North Carolina. It is often difficult for colleagues and collaborators outside the corridors and offices of ISA to appreciate fully the daily purposefulness and studied professionalism with which the members of the ISA staff go about the task of advancing the quality of undergraduate education, of enhancing the career capacities of graduate students, and of supporting the professional development of the faculty. Difficult also for outsiders to appreciate–especially–the staff’s on-going arduous pursuit of grant funding and endowments so as to make available the necessary resources with which to support the professional goals to which members of the Carolina Latin Americanist community aspire. With the result being, alas, all-too infrequent instances of acknowledgment of appreciation from among the many beneficiaries of the efforts to which the ISA staff dedicates its resolve. The end of Academic Year 2022-2023 provides an occasion to register again a heartfelt appreciation for the ingenuity and resourcefulness with which Hannah Gill, Joanna Shuett, Brianna Gilmore, and Beatriz Riefkohl Muñiz have over the years sustained the programmatic excellence and maintained the funding capacities that have earned Latin American Studies at Carolina the well-deserved reputation as one of the premier programs in the United States: a commitment discharged with an ingenuity of purpose and generosity of spirit that makes those corner offices on the third floor of the GEC such a very special place.

All of us at ISA wish our colleagues and collaborators at Carolina and beyond a safe and pleasant summer . . . .

Lou Pérez
June 2023

Photos and Posters from Southern Skies: Stories from Latin America and Las Magníficas.