Beginning this fall, students seeking a master’s program in Latin American and Latino studies will be able to find it at Fordham. The new initiative makes the University the only one in the New York City area—and among only a few in the nation—to craft its program around both disciplines.
“Most universities focus on either Latin America or Latino studies; very few combine both,” said S. Elizabeth Penry, Ph.D., director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Institute (LALSI). “But we think it’s a natural combination.”
The master’s degree grew from a graduate certificate that has been offered for the past two years, and will continue after the degree program gets underway.
“We started the certificate program as a way to offer graduate courses,” Penry said, “but the goal was always to have a master’s program.”
What makes it unique, she added, is that it brings together faculty from a wide array of scholarly disciplines, including history, political science, sociology, anthropology, theology, English, art history and music, African-American studies and psychology.
This fall, Penry will teach “Latin American and Latino Cultures,” which will introduce the major issues, themes and debates in the field by hosting guest faculty lecturers from across the academic spectrum.
“Next spring, Christopher Schmidt-Nowara, Ph.D., and Carinna Ray, Ph.D., both from the Department of History, will co-teach a seminar on Atlantic slavery,” Penry said. “Dr. Schmidt-Nowara’s specialty is the Caribbean and the Iberian Atlantic, and Dr. Ray’s specialty is Africa. This will be a very exciting course.”
Also that spring, Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé, Ph.D., professor of Spanish and Latin American and Latino Studies, will teach “Latino New York,” which will focus on how New York has been imagined by Spanish and Latin American immigrant and exile writers and native Latinos.
Students in the program must complete courses focused on both the Latino experience in the United States and Latin American studies. In the overall program, courses must be selected from among at least three different academic disciplines.
But not all work toward the degree occurs in the classroom. Students must select a service-learning project, an internship or a guided research project in the New York area or in a Latin-American country.
“One of the most exciting parts of this program is the hands-on component,” said Charlene Dundie, director of admissions for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Excitement for the program has been building, Penry said, as applications have been arriving from well-qualified students, including a Fulbright scholar finalist, a Peace Corps volunteer and Fordham honors students in their junior years who are interested in early admission.
Those juniors can complete their master’s degrees after one additional year because the Latin American and Latino studies courses they take in their senior years will count toward their graduate degree.
“Juniors who apply to the program need not be Latin American and Latino studies majors,” Penry said, “and most students applying to the program are not of Latino descent.”
Students interested in the program should have speaking proficiency in one of the languages of Latin America and the Caribbean, other than English.
“They don’t have to have native fluency, but have a good grasp of the language,” Penry said. “The degree is for someone who has a genuine interest in and appreciation of the Latin American and Latino cultures.”