College launches new minor in Latino and Latin American Studies

June 30, 2009

As part of its commitment to preparing students for an increasingly global and diverse society, McDaniel College will introduce this fall a new minor in Latino and Latin American Studies.

“We’re trying to diversify the curriculum in general, and there is a tremendous amount of interest in Latin America among students in different disciplines – from our Spanish program, where we teach not only language but also literature and interdisciplinary cultural studies,” said Amy McNichols, assistant professor of Spanish in the Foreign Languages Department.

She said students have been intrigued to learn more about not only Latino and Latin American literature and film, but also other media, politics, colonialism and gender/sexuality studies.

McNichols, who will serve as coordinator for the minor, helped shape the program along with a committee that included professors Donna Evergates from the History Department, Uriel Quesada, also from the Foreign Languages Department, and Scott Hardy from the Environmental Science & Policy.

McNichols said the new minor complements McDaniel’s educational mission by introducing a much-needed dimension to the college’s academic offerings. Currently the college offers more than 60 programs of study, including majors, minors and certificate programs.

“We say we want our students to have a more global perspective, and increased awareness of the U.S. as a multicultural nation,” she said. “The McDaniel Plan is very intentional about this. I think this program is a natural fit with the new curriculum and really with today’s students’ perspectives about the world they live in.”

The new minor will complement the college’s strong extracurricular offerings such as the annual Taste of Latin America Dinner and that work that the Hispano-Latino Alliance has done over the years in hosting political discussions, movies, dancers, spoken word poetry presentations and bringing guest speakers to campus, McNichols said.

“I think everyone sees the importance of incorporating both U.S. Latino and Latin American Studies into our curriculum due to the importance of the region, but also because Latinos now constitute the largest minority in the United States,” McNichols said.

The minor - which requires completion of 24 credit hours - will be made up of three basic elements:

Linguistic competence: By the time they finish the minor, students need to prove their competence either by completing “The Hispanic World: Language and Society II” or placing beyond that level.

Coursework: One foundational course, either “Contemporary Latin American Culture” or “The Cultural History of Latin America.”

Experiential: Either study abroad, extensive volunteer work, an internship or work abroad.

McNichols said she expects the new minor to fuel demand for courses specializing in this area in different disciplines. Political Science, History, Spanish and Music have all regularly offered Latino and Latin American-concentrated courses, and other departments and programs have expressed interest in the same, she said.

With a growing Latino population in this country that is assuming greater importance, it is imperative for students to understand the Latino and Latin American experience, she added.

“By giving Latino/Latin American Studies a place in our curriculum, it becomes clear to prospective students that we understand and value that culture,” she said. “This is important to Latino and Latin American students as well as other students, who need to understand the people they will interact with in their personal and professional lives in the future.”