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Vanderbilt Center for Latin American Studies receives $2 million federal grant

by Sep. 2, 2010, 11:38 AM

Edward Fischer

Vanderbilt University’s Center for Latin American Studies will expand its collaborations in Tennessee and beyond through world-class research, teaching and community service – thanks to a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Center for Latin American Studies has been named a stand-alone Comprehensive National Resource Center for Latin America, one of only 13 to receive the prestigious designation from the Department of Education.

“The Center for Latin American Studies is a place of remarkable energy and innovation,” Carolyn Dever, dean of the College of Arts and Science, said. “The faculty are committed to the synergy of teaching, research and service in a broad range of high-impact programs. With the support of the Department of Education, the center is posed for new leadership in the critical area of Latin American studies.”

Vanderbilt’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary center, originally called the Institute for Brazilian Studies, was created in 1947 to foster educational, cultural, business and other relationships between the United States and Latin America. That mission remains more vital than ever, according to Edward F. Fischer, professor of anthropology and the center’s director.

“We know that the future of the United States has become increasingly intertwined with that of Latin America in everything from energy supplies to what’s on our dinner table,” Fischer said. “This award recognizes the national importance of our unparalleled faculty expertise in key areas of research and public policy ranging from political participation and economic development to languages, history and the arts.”

The center offers an undergraduate major and master’s in Latin American Studies as well as joint degrees with the Owen Graduate School of Management and Vanderbilt Law School. Among the areas of faculty expertise are Brazil, the Maya area, the Andes and African descendant populations in Latin America. The center is a national leader in Portuguese and indigenous language instruction.

The center offers business roundtables, public lectures, teacher workshops and collaborations with regional colleges and universities. During the past three years, more than 200,000 people have attended center-sponsored art exhibits, workshops and other public events.

It also fosters a lively research community on campus by sponsoring colloquia, conferences and a film-and-speaker series with distinguished scholars and government leaders.

The grant will enable the center to fund more graduate students working in Latin America from across campus. Currently, the center awards more than $50,000 annually in summer research awards to graduate students and another $250,000 each year in academic year graduate fellowships.

This year, the center is sponsoring a series of events to examine the impact of liberation theology on Latin American society and politics that will be kicked off with a keynote address from Gustavo Gutiérrez, the father of the movement. In addition, the center will hold a workshop on health care initiatives with a keynote address by the Guatemalan ambassador to the United States. Other events are planned in collaboration with the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Cheekwood, Nashville Public Library and other community organizations.

For more information on the Center for Latin American Studies, visit www.vanderbilt.edu/clas.

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