LACIS’ Fall 2019 Semester-in-Review

Written by Claire Campbell, LACIS Communications and Social Media Intern, B.A., Journalism & Spanish

As part of our mission in the Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Program, we aim to educate and reach out, not only to members of the UW, but the Madison area community and beyond. We strive to teach about the cultures, languages, and peoples our world has to offer by bringing in speakers, holding events, and starting discussions.

We are excited to share all that was accomplished that past semester, as well as provide readers with a sneak-peak of some of our special events planned for this spring! To that end, we are excited to announce that the website for our Conference on Migration: Latin America and the U.S. is now live.  During this conference, panelists will examine what makes migration unique in regions throughout Central, North and South America. They will provide historical, political and socio-cultural analysis to examine the contexts of immigration in these regions. Registration will be available shortly.

Reflecting on the fall semester, we hope that the programming we organized and sponsored brought an increased understanding of other cultures to UW’s campus. In the past semester, all the events that we personally hosted or that we helped to sponsor reached an audience of just over 10,000 people in total. Wow!

Here is a brief chart to illustrate how much we accomplished this past semester:

Type of Activity: Total Number of this type of activity:
K-12 Outreach 8
Community Outreach 11
On campus outreach/activities for undergraduate and graduate students 5
Lectures & workshops 27
Drop in Undergraduate Advising Dates 25

*This includes 6000 people who attended the Madison World Music Festival’s Latin American-focused performances that we co-sponsored.

The biggest event we participated in by far was the Madison World Music Festival, presented by the Wisconsin Union. The festival garnered a crowd of over 6,000 to see Los Wemblers de Iquitos, a Peruvian band that we sponsored, which performed both a show at the festival and another performance during a visit to Elvehjem Elementary School in Madison.

Los Wemblers performing for the students of Elvehjem

We began our own programming by hosting an ice cream social as a welcome back to campus at the University Club. Students and community members were free to come and ask us questions while enjoying some delicious Babcock ice cream out on the patio. We were delighted to meet and learn about so many people that had interest in our program. We also spent that time talking to visitors about our upcoming lecture series for the semester, the LACIS Lunchtime Lectures, and the mini-series within those talks, The Race and Indigeneity Speaker Series.

LACIS Outreach Coordinator, Janel Anderson, with Nancy Heingartner, IRIS Assistant Director for Outreach

During these series, we invited scholars, professors, musicians, journalists and more from both within the UW and outside, to talk about their research on topics like migration, indigeneity, mental health, anthropology, language, and current events. We loved seeing the new faces every week along with the regular attendees who came with great questions. A number of those lectures can actually be found recorded on our YouTube channel if you missed them or want to go back and re-watch your favorites. We would like to thank all those who worked hard to make those lectures a success.

One of our weekly lunchtime lectures

Outside of the lecture series, we hosted a number of independent, smaller events in which we take great pride, like our screening of the documentary “The Unafraid,” which follows three DACA high school students in Georgia as they fight for the right to education. We screened the documentary for free at Union South and hosted a Q&A session for all those that attended.

Another, smaller event series that we wish to highlight was held in tandem with an alum residency that we hosted this semester. We had 2006 LACIS and journalism alum Jacob Kushner come back to campus for a week and talk about his career as an international freelance reporter. He has been based all over the world and printed in some of the top publications of the day, like the New York Times Magazine, Harpers, and National Geographic. While on campus, he visited classrooms to talk to students and gave lectures on his time reporting in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and on his experience in the field as a freelance reporter. He also moderated a panel on litigating LGBTQ+ issues in Kenya. We have a blog post about his visit on our website right here. For those of you that missed last semester’s events with Jacob will have another opportunity when he turns later this spring for a public lecture and speaking engagement in International Studies 101.

Reporter and LACIS alum Jacob Kushner

A large part of our goals in the office pertain to outreach and community education, which is why we assisted with the hosting of World Appreciation Day for over 300 local middle school students and their teachers. This was an opportunity for students to learn about cultures from around the world and increase their appreciation of humanity’s diversity. We co-sponsored a live performance by a local capoeiera group and our Yucatec Maya professor, Jessica Hurley, hosted mini-language sessions for the students.

However, those middle school students were not the only ones coming together to learn new things last fall. Our Outreach Coordinator, Janel Anderson (PhD student, Education Leadership, Policy, and Analysis), organized the creation of the Latin American Area Studies Educators Network, LAAS-EN, for local teachers to learn from each other and share insights about how best to connect with their students. This group provides the educators an opportunity to network  and explore new programming by sharing their materials and ideas. The group plans to host an upcoming Networking and Professional Development Day in mid-February, questions about which can be directed to Janel (

Speaking of networking, last semester our Associate Director, Alberto Vargas, took a trip to Mexico with the University of Wisconsin Alumni Association to launch a new chapter of the group for our graduates based there. We are so happy to see him helping to connect Badgers from around the world, even years after they have left our halls.

An evening of Paraguayan music

We capped off the semester in December with a special “Music of Paraguay” event hosted at the brand new Hamel Music Center. We invited four musicians to play an evening of traditional Paraguayan songs. The participating musicians were Pedro Oviedo, a violist and conductor, Ramiro Miranda, a violist, Daniel Luzko, a pianist, and Magdalena Sas, a cellist. Thank you to all who attended, it was a wonderful way to finish off a strong semester.

Circling back to the topic of our current semester, we are excited to offer even more opportunities for the community to engage with the Latin American Studies Program in the continuation of the lunchtime lecture series, with a whole new roster of fantastic presenters.  K-12 educators may wish to register for our spring professional development workshop: “The US and World Fascism: Human Rights from the Spanish Civil War to Nuremberg and Beyond” which is scheduled for May 20th.

We look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones once classes begin again, and we hope that our work this upcoming semester continues to create moments for the community to explore and connect, both with each other and the world outside Madison.