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Latin American and Caribbean Studies (Cluster and Certificate)

The Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) cluster and certificate draw on the expertise of more than two dozen Northwestern faculty members from different disciplines. Building on this strong faculty base and on emergent and established ties to the region, the LACS cluster and certificate encourage graduate students to think of familiar questions in unfamiliar ways, and to pose new ones, fostering excellence and innovation within the traditional disciplines and a deeper understanding of the region than students might otherwise achieve.

This LACS initiative is one of the first in the country to offer a formal structure for interdisciplinary training in Latin American and Caribbean studies. The cluster and certificate nurture a core intellectual community in which affiliated students develop connections with one another and with our exceptionally strong and interdisciplinary faculty. We do this in three specific ways. First, we have built a curriculum of courses taught in three areas of inquiry, chosen because of their enduring importance. Second, we run ongoing faculty and graduate colloquia in which students at all levels present work in progress. Third, we actively seek to strengthen ties between Northwestern and partner institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean to promote graduate and faculty research and exchange. In addition, LACS makes research and travel funds available to participating graduate students on a competitive basis. 


Advising

All LACS certificate and cluster students should seek advising from the LACS Director of Graduate Studies (see below for contact info).

Programs and events

There are numerous different ways for faculty and students to participate in the intellectual life of the certificate and cluster. Many events, such as lectures, conferences, and film screenings are open to all members of the University. Certificate and cluster seminars are open to graduate students across the University. We encourage all students, faculty and staff of Northwestern to learn more about LACS research and activities by participating in our public events.

Faculty Colloquium and Graduate  Student Workshop

The centerpiece of LACS’s intellectual life is the year-long LACS faculty colloquium. Convening monthly or thereabouts, the colloquium features Northwestern faculty affiliates of LACS (or advanced graduate students) presenting research, workshopping papers, and fielding questions about their work. Students in the certificate and cluster are warmly encouraged to participate, with the expectation that in the process they will learn about ongoing research at the university, be introduced to methods and scholarly questions beyond their own disciplines, and contribute to shaping the research of scholars in the field.

Additionally, certificate and cluster students are encouraged to attend and present work in the graduate workshop, a co-curricular opportunity offered by LACS and run by our graduate students, with the robust participation of their peers from across Northwestern. It is an ideal venue for LACS graduate students to share, discuss, and receive feedback on research at any stage.

Who should join?

Doctoral candidates from any field may join this intellectual “home” outside their department. Prospective students interested in participating in the cluster or certificate should indicate their interest when they apply to their respective graduate programs. Past participants have come from the following programs:

  • African American Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Art History
  • Communication Studies
  • Comparative Literary Studies
  • History
  • Latina and Latino Studies 
  • Music
  • Performance Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Religious Studies
  • Sociology
  • Spanish and Portuguese
  • Theatre and Drama

How to apply

Prospective students interested in participating in this cluster should indicate their interest when they apply to their respective graduate programs. This cohort will include incoming and current students who wish to participate in program activities.

Current graduate students interested in participating in this cluster should email Associate Professor Ana Arjona at ana.arjona@northwestern.edu.

Who to contact

Please contact the program director, listed below, with questions. Or, explore the LACS website for more information.

The following requirements are in addition to, or further elaborate upon, those requirements outlined in The Graduate School Policy Guide.

Cluster

Students in established departmental graduate programs can choose to join the Latin American & Caribbean Studies cluster. The cluster provides basic training and is an alternative to the Certificate in Latin American & Caribbean Studies (for those students whose schedules do not allow for the completion of certificate requirement). The cluster is open to all interested graduate students. This credential does not appear on transcripts.

Courses

Students must take three letter-graded (A, B, C) courses authorized for Graduate School credit. Note that the Graduate School allows students to count courses toward both a cluster and degree.

Courses must be distributed across the following three disciplinary areas. The disciplinary areas are intended to extend the student’s expertise into different disciplines and fields and are defined as follows:

  • Area I Arts and Literature (e.g., Art History, French and Italian, Spanish and Portuguese)
  • Area II Historical Studies (e.g., African American Studies, History, Religious Studies)
  • Area III Social Sciences (e.g., Anthropology, Economics, Political Science, Sociology)

Certificate

The LACS certificate is intended both to encourage cross-disciplinary, multicultural, and multilingual scholarship and teaching as well as facilitate formal recognition of this aspect of graduate training. In a way that degree programs often do not, a certificate may signal to potential employers – departments, programs, research institutions, or the private sector – a candidate’s experience with intellectual, linguistic, and disciplinary diversity as well as his or her openness to different perspectives, methods, and professional skills. LACS understands these tools as providing a critical advantage in graduate students’ success at Northwestern and beyond. This credential appears on students’ transcripts.

Students who express interest in the LACS certificate will be asked to chart out a plan of study with the Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the student’s departmental advisor.

Courses

Students must take five letter-graded (A, B, C) courses authorized for Graduate School credit. Note that the Graduate School allows students to count courses toward both a certificate and degree.

Courses must be distributed across the following three disciplinary areas. No more than two courses from any area may count toward the certificate. The disciplinary areas are intended to extend the student’s expertise into different disciplines and fields and are as follows:

  • Area I Arts and Literature (e.g., Art History, French and Italian, Spanish and Portuguese)
  • Area II Historical Studies (e.g., African American Studies, History, Religious Studies)
  • Area III Social Sciences (e.g., Anthropology, Economics, Political Science, Sociology)

For example, a student from Spanish and Portuguese seeking a certificate may propose the following distribution across the disciplinary areas:

  • SPANPORT 425 Exile and Diaspora in Caribbean Literature and Film (Area I) SPANPORT 455 Brazilian Literature and Anthropology (Area I)
  • HIST 492 The Caribbean in World History (Area II)
    AFAM 480 Afro-Latin America (Area II)
  • ANTHRO 490 The Global Life of Things (Area III)

Languages

Finally, students must meet a language requirement. Students must have fluency in the language most appropriate to their course of study, and have functional competence in at least one of the region's other languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, or any of the region's autochthonous languages. Language competence can be certified by any of the regularly scheduled language exams offered by Northwestern's foreign language departments, or by coursework in the appropriate language.