Graduates with an MA in Latin American Studies (MALAS) enter the workforce ready and able to tackle complex challenges within their fields. Their work plays an integral role in advancing the academic and professional community of Latin American, Caribbean, and Latinx Studies. Recent graduates of the program have received full scholarships to pursue doctoral studies at institutions including: New York University, Syracuse University, University of Chicago, University of Florida, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Michigan, and University of Texas at Austin. Below, we invite you to view the profiles of recent graduates from the MALAS program.
As a UF MALAS student, I conducted research on paramilitary violence and persecution against trade unionists in Colombia. As an intern with Sinaltrainal (Colombian union that represents food and beverage workers) in Medellin, I not only gained research experience but was also able to learn how unionists organize and mobilize; tactics which I utilize daily now that I am in the workforce.
After graduating from UF in April, I moved to Providence Rhode Island to start working as a union organizer for The American Federation of Teachers/AFL-CIO. Currently, I am working with graduate students at Brown University in an organizing campaign to create a graduate student union. It was at the Center for Latin American Studies where I was introduced to the Graduate Assistants Union (GAU-UF) by other MALAS students, and where I was able to see how much graduate students benefit from having a student union. The Center not only provided me with the tools to become a better scholar but it also allowed me to prepare myself for the professional work I am doing.
I obtained my MALAS degree and a certificate in Gender and Development studies in spring 2017. My thesis focused on gender-based violence in Ecuador and was based on a three-month field work and four-semester interdisciplinary training at The University of Florida (UF). Coming from Slovenia straight to the Center for Latin American Studies, I was immediately welcomed into a stimulating environment of faculty and graduate students with strong connections to the region, who encouraged me to reflect critically on my own assumptions, role, and design of the research project that I eventually carried out in Quito. The MALAS program equipped me with both theoretical and practical knowledge that inspired me to return to Ecuador after graduation, and share my findings with groups of people from different sociocultural worlds that I was working with.
Based on my thesis results and the expertise of these interlocutors, we raised questions about the sociocultural constructs and discussed future possibilities. While I remain engaged with different UF initiatives and working groups, I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Anthropology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). I am looking forward to keep working on the project I initiated at UF that looks at different ways in which gender, ethnorace, class and environment intersect on the Ecuadorian Coast.
I currently work with the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (EJCW) as their Central Coast Program Coordinator. EJCW is a statewide coalition of grassroots groups and intermediary organizations building a collective, community-based movement for democratic water allocation, management, and policy in California. EJCW empowers the most under-served communities, including those of low-income and communities of color throughout California, to advocate for clean, safe, and affordable water. In their regional Salinas office, I work with community members and partners for long-term drinking water and wastewater solutions in the Central Coast region including the Salinas Valley. Additionally, my work includes supporting the implementation of the Salinas Valley Disadvantaged Community (DAC) Drinking Water and Wastewater Planning Project, Proposition 1 DAC Involvement and technical assistance programs.
The UF MALAS program provided me with adequate resources to strengthen my passion for human rights issues. This came in the form of course selection, recommended readings, interactions with professionals, and most importantly, the faculty! The faculty embraced my passions and helped me expand on them. This has come in useful, as I am now advocating for the human right to water in under-served communities in California.
Currently, I am Co-Director of Programs and Training at Public Allies Chicago. Public Allies is a national and non-profit movement committed to advancing social justice and equity by engaging the leadership of young people. Through my work at Public Allies Chicago, I have had the opportunity to connect with hundreds of emerging leaders and play a supportive role in their development. In my current position as Co-Director, I have the wonderful opportunity to develop and carry out our training curriculum and find innovative strategies to make our learning more engaging and transformative. I completed my internship requirement for the MALAS program at Public Allies as a Program Manager. The internship gave me the opportunity to closely examine how Public Allies Chicago was engaging with Latinx in the city. Working alongside Dr. Nicholas Vargas and Jonathan Dain, I completed an analysis of Latinx youth disconnection and Public Allies Chicago's role as an apprenticeship program. This resulted in a list of program recommendations, identifying partner organizations in predominantly Latinx communities, and working to serve our Latinx participants holistically. I believe that my internship project through MALAS led to my growth in the organization and continues to inform my work as a professional in the Non-Profit sector.
I received a MALAS degree at UF with a specialization in Geography and a research focus on infrastructure development in the South of Pará, Brazil. More specifically, my master’s research investigated the geography of land conflict surrounding a future hydropower dam site and how environmental impact assessments can be improved by incorporating an analysis of land conflict. Through courses and networks such as Tropical Conservation and Development, I was able to engage with the Center for Latin American Studies’ disciplinary range of Amazonian specialists. The MALAS program helped me generate a political ecology of resource conflicts that connects space and power with dimensions of class, gender, and ethnicity.
After graduating from the MALAS program, I transitioned to the Geography department at UF to begin my doctoral research where I continue to utilize an interdisciplinary political ecology framework to research human-environment systems in Florida involving water consumption and ecological degradation. My current research incorporates elements of policy analysis, geographic information systems, spatial modeling, and in-depth interviews to uncover social and environmental connections in resource-use. Guidance from the MALAS program staff and faculty encouraged me to pursue interdisciplinary research and take-on complex socioenvironmental issues from a range of disciplinary perspectives.
As a young Latina interested in issues of inequity and social justice, I initially sought a MALAS degree to explore my roots and focus my area of studies in my homeland of Ecuador. However, through the guidance of faculty mentors and the in-depth conversations with my MALAS cohort, I ended up studying the labor rights of undocumented Latinx immigrants through a concentration in Latino Studies. I was extremely fortunate to be able to explore this topic through the non-thesis internship option MALAS offered as an intern of the “Trabajadores Unidos” Committee of the New York City-based organization Make the Road New York.
The MALAS program challenged not just my intellectual and academic development but was a catalyst for the understanding of my own identity and social position as a Latina. While my initial goal was to work for a labor union or non-profit organization focused on Latino worker advocacy, the opening of a position in Hispanic Latino Affairs at the University of Florida led me to the field of Student Affairs. After a year of working with the Hispanic-Latinx student population, I was promoted to Assistant Director of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs. I currently work on social justice education initiatives and run an intergroup dialogue program called Gatorship that helps participants develop an understanding of their own identity, social position, and the social forces that shape our lives. I am grateful to the MALAS program’s guidance and the incredible life-long friendships I made in the program.
UF Latin American Studies alumni are an integral part of the academic and professional community of Latin America, Caribbean, and Latino Studies experts around the globe. We encourage you to click through and view the profiles of more Center alumni!