What's Happening in Latin American and Iberian Studies?

Department Newsletter

March 22, 2017
by susan.mraz
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Educación De Calidad Para Un Futuro Mejor: A Costa Rican Adventure

When I walked by the Liceo de Nicoya, Costa Rica and read Educación De Calidad Para Un Futuro Major above the door I felt particularly appreciative that I’ve embraced studying the Spanish language and taken the risk to go deeper in understanding through a Latin American language immersion experience. My two weeks at the Academía de Español Nicoya continues the learning I began two years ago with Professor Mark Schafer’s Spanish 101 class. Why? It is tremendously important to me to keep learning and I hope to teach Latino children in the future. So at 52 years old I joined a group of undergraduates to learn a new language. They could be my children, but in the classroom context we are on the same journey of comprehending something entirely new, daunting, inspiring. They celebrate my 85s and commiserate over my C minus notas (grades). And I support them likewise, as they balance courses and waitressing and other demands. We are in this together, especially after the obligatory language requirement levels.
When I emailed Professor Schafer about enrolling, he responded, “Great! You should know that it’s a challenging course, with a lot of grammar and vocabulary.” There is more than a boat load of grammar and new words. But he was gentle and demanding at once and I stuck to it and continued to Spanish 102 with him. Last fall I progressed to Spanish 201 with Professor Mraz. She delighted me with her enchanting take on language and culture and her use of technology to impart knowledge. Now I’m in Spanish 202 with Department Chair Nino Kebadze whose enthusiasm for Spanish is more than contagious. But before coming to Costa Rica to this Spanish immersion program, I continued to talk with my hand near my mouth so that it would capture all my oral flubs.
My school is located in Nicoya, Costa Rica, comprised of four “parroquiales” which are located in an area named Guanacaste, the majority of which is a fat peninsula facing the Pacific Ocean. I am studying in a town in the center, Nicoya, a simple place, with modest homes, and cold showers that are balanced by incredibly warm inhabitants: the Guanatastecos. Rocking in the chairs on the school’s veranda, we face an elementary school echoing with children’s laughter.
I study with another student or one on one with various teachers — four hours in the morning — and two in the afternoon. Occasionally, a few monos (monkeys) will swing by, but I focus on the language, rather than the remarkable flora and fauna in this lovely country. Learning to speak a foreign language is the Boston Marathon of humility, mile after mile, with Heartbreak Hill moments. But there are victories:  I no longer cover my mouth while expelling verb conjugations. I am starting to speak more naturally!
I live with a family of three, an abuela (grandmother), a mamá (mother), and a 14 year old hija (daughter). La abuela does not speak English, la mamá speaks pretty well, and la hija almost perfectly. Dogs and cats roam the streets, men with little carts attached to bikes are Nicoyan “Ice Cream Trucks,” and men encircle you selling news print lottery tickets. Might I win? I’ll stick with the Mass State Lottery.
Finally, I am grateful that my family and work colleagues have allowed me to take this leap in learning. I’m convinced that the education I am receiving is de calidad and hope that my use of it will somehow bring about Un Futuro Mejor.
¡Pura Vida!
—Nanette Cormier

January 29, 2017
by susan.mraz
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Film screening: Starving the Beast

On February 16, LAIS is co-sponsoring a film screening of Starving the Beast.  Attached is a PDF flyer that you can share with your students to help advertise the event if you wish.  At the event, there will be some light refreshments, then the film and a brief discussion after.  Barbara Madeloni from the MTA will speak, and hopefully a couple students.

Location:  Ryan Lounge (M-3-721)
Date:       2/16/17
Time:   5pm-7:30pm

Synopsis:  As college tuition skyrockets and student debt explodes, a powerful new documentary reveals a nationwide fight for control of the heart, soul and finances of America’s public universities.  Starving the Beast tells the story of a potent one-two punch roiling public higher education right now:  35 years of systematic defunding and a well-financed market oriented reform effort.  It’s the story of a little known and misunderstood ideological fight, the outcome of which will change the future of public higher education. The film reveals an historic philosophical shift that reframes public higher education as a ‘value proposition’ to be borne by the student as a consumer, rather than an investment in citizens as a ‘public good’. Financial winners and losers emerge in a struggle poised to profoundly change public higher education.  The film vividly illustrates these issues in unfolding dramas at six public research universities:  University of Wisconsin, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, Louisiana State University, University of Texas, and Texas A&M

http://www.starvingthebeast.net/

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/09/the-politics-of-higher-education/498551/

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/09/movies/starving-the-beast-review-steve-mims.html?_r=0

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/03/22/starving-beast-examines-ideological-shifts-funding-higher-education

November 21, 2016
by susan.mraz
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Remembering Ann Blum

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-6-02-38-pmDear friends,

The book, Ann(ie) Blum in Our Lives, is out.  It is a wonderful thing.

“What does it mean to have had Ann-Annie to some-Blum in our lives? The letters and stories from family and friends assembled in this book, together with photos and words of Ann’s own, evoke her presence. They allow us to think about what we want to carry forward, into the lives we still have.”

Any net revenue from sales of this book will be directed towards “The Ann S. Blum Memorial Scholarship in Latin American Studies” at the University of Massachusetts Boston. (Gifts can also be made at http://www.umb.edu/giving ).  To this end, I have copies to sell or you can buy it online via https://thepumpingstation.org/books/ or regular online retailers.

I recently wrote a blogpost on my evolving thinking about the purpose of the book, http://wp.me/p1gwfa-W9 . From that thoughtpiece:
“[N]ow I see that the value of people having their voice heard in a community is that we-this includes me-have very partial narratives about what the loss of someone means for their lives. We say something-such as ‘I so miss her’ or ‘Cancer sucks’ or ‘I’m doing as well as can be expected’-but we know there’s more to what we are feeling. Things that are hard to articulate, things that are hard to know whether this is the person and the time to explore it with. So those things often get left un(der) explored; we just carry on. The book allows, however, readers to bring their own thoughts to the surface through hearing the partial things others are able to say, to give voice to. And also to learn more, which adds to those thoughts. In that way, there is more play, more processing of what each reader wants to carry forward as part of their own lives….”

best wishes,
peter

April 10, 2016
by susan.mraz
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Ann Blum Memorial

Please Join Us

Thursday, April 21st , 3-6pm

Campus Center, 2nd floor

Alumni Room, Room 2551

Celebrating the life and work of our Friend and Colleague

Ann S. Blum

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RSVP by Friday, April 15th

margaret.fitzgerald@umb.edu

Please feel free to invite UMB friends outside of CLA who may not receive this invitation.

Latin American & Iberian Studies Department has established the Ann S Blum Memorial Scholarship.

If you wish to make a donation to the scholarship fund, please contact

Anne  Kelly-Contini:  Anne.KellyContini@umb.edu

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