Latin American Studies now offered as a minor

Imogené Wofford, Co-Editor

The college of humanities, social sciences and arts is now offering a new minor in Latin American and United States Latino Studies (LALS) through the department of political science.

A&M-Commerce Political Science Associate Professor Dr. Robert Rodriguez is coordinating the LALS program that he developed a few years ago based off of the programs that he worked in at the University of Kansas, years ago.

He is teaching the newly established introductory course LALS 101, a requirement for the minor.

“Since one of my specialties is Latin American politics, some of the courses that I already teach would count toward the minor,” Rodriguez said. “The beauty of this program is that all of the other courses a student minoring in LALS would have to take already exist across several departments.”

There are 15 other mandatory credit hours that can come from courses with Latin American or U.S. Latino content in other departments such as: Spanish, history, education, and sociology, among others.

The LALS course is designed to be interdisciplinary and will be taught by faculty from different departments each year. Whomever is teaching the course has the freedom to design it in such a way that the themes she/he emphasizes will vary.

“One of my areas of research is in analyzing the connections between politics and sport, and therefore one of the topics we are discussing this semester is the role of sports among Latin Americans and US Latinos,” he said.

During his time at the University of Kansas, Rodriguez taught courses in their Center for Latin American Studies and served on the committee that established the U.S. Latino Studies minor there. When he became a member of TAMUC faculty he noticed that there was a high percentage of Latino students on the campus but no Latin American or U.S. Latino Studies major or minor.

He decided to create one himself, convening a group that included CHSSA Dean Salvatore Attardo and several faculty and staff who were supportive of the idea to come together and develop a proposal for both the minor and the major. The approval process for a minor is far easier than that of the major, so the minor is already on the books but they hope the proposal to establish the major will be approved in the next year or so.

A student who minors in LALS will demonstrate that they have superior knowledge and understanding of Latin America and the Latino population of the United States.

“In our increasingly diverse state, where upwards of 39% of the population is Latino, as well as our country, where around 18% of Americans are Latino, this knowledge will be vital for any career,” Rodriguez said.

In the LALS introductory course the students are looking into subjects like colonization, economics, immigration, education, history, politics, literature, sports, film, music and several other themes that are prevalent in our daily lives.

“All course work that counts toward the LALS minor is relevant to today’s world. Whether it is the introductory course, or any of the courses with LALS content, not a day goes by that we are not discussing issues relevant to all Americans, and more broadly, the Western Hemisphere,” he said.

Rodriguez emphasized that the introductory course is necessary to introduce the students to different fields of study because at other universities they have programs in Latin American studies, and others in Latino Studies, Mexican-American Studies, Chicano Studies, or Caribbean Studies, among other more narrowly focused programs.

He also highlighted the uniqueness of the LALS program at TAMUC because it encompasses both Latin American Studies and U.S. Latin Studies. By enabling students to gain a broad understanding of the diversity among Latin American nations and Latinos in the U.S., they are able to gain a richer understanding of the Latin American diaspora in the United States, rather than taking a narrow nationality focus (such as Mexican-American Studies) or geographical focus (Caribbean Studies).

“The fact that I currently have 14 students enrolled in LALS 101, a course that I had very little time to promote and has never been taught before, tells me that there is a demand among our student body to take courses that relate to Latin America and Latinos in the U.S,” he said. “This minor is a natural fit for anybody majoring in Spanish, History, Political Science, Sociology and just about anything else. As word gets out about this new minor (and eventually, major), I do not have any doubt that it will grow and attract students to study at A&M-Commerce.”

If there are any current or prospective A&M-Commerce student who would like more information about the minor should contact: Dr. Robert Rodriguez, Associate Professor of Political Science at: [email protected].