Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why study Latin America from Europe?

Recently two senior administrators of the Latin American Studies Program (LASP) came to Bologna from Washington, DC, to meet students, faculty and staff. Below Guadalupe Paz, LASP associate director and assistant research professor, and Anne McKenzie, LASP senior academic coordinator, discuss their concentration, one of the programs available to SAIS students in both Washington and Bologna.

Q: Why are you in Bologna?
A: Approximately half of the students enrolled in the Latin American Studies Program under the Western Hemisphere Studies umbrella spend their first year of the MA at SAIS Europe in Bologna. We feel it's essential to meet with LASP students in Bologna at the start of the school year to learn more about their background and interests and to provide individually tailored academic and career counseling, both during our visit and subsequently over Skype, telephone and email.
Guadalupe Paz (2nd from right) with
LASP concentrators in Bologna

Q: Can LASP concentrators start in Bologna and finish in DC?
A: Yes, about half of each incoming LASP MA class begins their studies at SAIS Europe in Bologna. SAIS Europe offers WHS/LASP courses taught by distinguished adjunct faculty from renowned European universities and occasionally by SAIS Washington visiting faculty. By spending one year in Europe, students are exposed to the European perspectives on global issues, including those affecting Latin America. Students also benefit from sharing the SAIS Europe in Bologna experience with an internationally and professionally diverse student body while gaining more direct access to the network of European alumni.

LASP students who begin their studies in Bologna can meet their concentration requirements by taking the LASP/WHS courses offered in Bologna and completing the remaining required coursework in Washington. Students can also pursue their language studies -- Spanish and Portuguese -- in Bologna.

Q: Why a LASP concentration? Is there anything unique or unusual about LASP?
A: Offering an overall political economy focus, the program continually seeks to develop innovative approaches to the study of the Western Hemisphere in the global context. The following sample of courses illustrates the breadth and diversity of LASP:

  • Brazil and the Potential of a BRIC: A New Emerging Market Player (Roett)
  • Energy in the Americas: Conflict , Cooperation and Future Prospects (González)
  • Multilateral Development Policy Research in Association with the Inter-American Development Bank (Mazza & Paz)
  • Competing in World Markets: Latin America’s Legacy and the Emergence of New Industrial Policies (Devlin)
  • Public Opinion as a Driver for Policymakers: Analytical Tools and Illustrative Case Studies (Young)
  • Urban Economics and Urban Policy in Latin America (Freire)

SAIS/LASP is consistently recognized for its dedicated faculty and staff and the individualized attention the students receive. Through program-level fundraising efforts, LASP students benefit from a number of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities including program-funded summer internships and fellowships in Latin America, study trips to China and other countries (most recently Brazil and Costa Rica) and student activities such as Latin American film screenings with faculty commentary and Spanish/Portuguese language conversation socials.

LASP is also known for maintaining close ties with its alumni community, allowing current students and alumni themselves to effectively network for professional, academic, and other pursuits.

Q: Could you say a word about internships supported by LASP?
Anne McKenzie (R) in Bologna
A: Each SAIS academic program has its own capstone requirement. For the LASP capstone, all Latin American Studies concentrators are required to complete an academic or professional internship relevant to program course work or, alternatively, pass an oral examination at the end of the final semester. All internships completed through the WHS-LASP Summer Internship Program satisfy the capstone requirement.

Relying on the LASP alumni network, we are able to secure summer internship opportunities in Latin America across all sectors -- private, public and nonprofit. Every year, the program funds up to 25 students, and based on survey responses from the entering class, the program makes every effort to confirm internship opportunities tailored to meet our students’ interests and career goals.

Recent LASP summer internship opportunities included 10-week assignments at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Moody’s in Mexico, the Inter-American Development Bank in Brazil and Peru, Itaú Asset Management in Chile, Thomson Reuters in Brazil and the Colombia-Venezuela Chamber of Commerce in Colombia, among many others over the years.

Q: What kinds of careers do LASP concentrators go into after SAIS?
A: LASP alumni have successfully pursued careers in investment banking, business consulting, government, diplomacy, international development and academia among other sectors, quite often focusing on global or regional issues beyond Latin America.

Typically, LASP graduates will initially work on issues relating to the Latin American region, in U.S. and international organizations, finance (NY, London), economic policy and research (IMF, Federal Reserve, Central Banks); international development (World Bank, IDB); renewable energy (Houston, San Francisco); management consulting; foreign policy (State Department or home Foreign Ministries).

Over time, LASP graduates tend to expand into various areas of specialization that span the globe, from energy in Saudi Arabia, to finance in Asia, to international law/human rights in Geneva, to social development in conflict regions in Africa, among many examples. LASP maintains close ties with its actively engaged alumni network around the globe, providing a valuable resource, both within and outside the U.S., for recruiting, mentoring and social networking.

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