LACIS Master of Arts

The Master of Arts degree in the Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Program (LACIS) is designed to provide an interdisciplinary study of Latin America, Spain, and Portugal.

The Program has few courses of its own (aside from a “core seminar” on “Trends in Latin American Studies”), and a small course listing in the Timetable. Students take courses from a wide array of departments that have offerings relevant to Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies.

Admissions Criteria

Minimum criteria for admission to the Program are a 3.0-grade point average in undergraduate work, presentation of GRE scores, and three strong letters of recommendation. There is no specific level of language proficiency required for admission, but entering students must take a proficiency exam in Spanish or Portuguese during the third or fourth week of their first semester. If they do not meet the proficiency requirement at that time, they will be expected to take courses on a remedial basis leading to the required level. The deadline for admission applications that include a request for fellowship consideration is January 5. The deadline for the fall semester is January 5.

If you are in the process of applying to our Program and have additional questions, you may contact the Graduate School for information about the status of your application.

Degree Requirements

  • Core Graduate Course Work (50%) Half of degree course work (15 credits out of 30 total credits) must be completed in courses: numbered 700 and above; or numbered 300-699 that are specifically designed for graduate students in a graduate program; or numbered 300-699 that assess graduate students separately from undergraduate students; or numbered 300-699 that have a graduate student enrollment >50% in any given semester.
  • Support Program Graduate Course Work (50%) Half of degree course work (15 credits), 12 credits of courses 300 or above, or Foreign Language and Area studies approved language courses.


LACIS Director, Kata Beilin and LACIS Associate Director,  Alberto Vargas, are the advisors for all graduate students in the Program and will consult with them on requirements and to provide an overview of possible course offerings. Students should make an appointment with one of them each semester, before registering for classes, to review their plan of study. Within a month after registration, Alberto will send each student a summary of their degree progress to date. It is the student’s responsibility to contact the LACIS office if there are discrepancies in their degree summary.In

In addition, students are to reach out to a second advisor in their field of concentration. Alberto will assist in the process of selecting a program within the student’s field of concentration, and be reaching out to a potential second advisor.

Program Completion and Progress

Under normal circumstances, the M.A. degree is completed in 3 semesters. After four semesters the student must petition for an extension. Students must also petition for part-time (less than 6 credits per semester) status. Petitions should be directed to the Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Admissions and Fellowships Committee.

A minimum 3.0-grade point average must be maintained each semester or the student will be placed on academic probation. In exceptional cases, the Director and Associate Director may agree to extend the probation period by one semester. In order to return to good standing, the student must obtain grades the following semester sufficient to average out to a 3.0 during the two semesters combined. Failure to do so will result in the student’s being dropped from the Program. Any student who has not removed an Incomplete one semester after it is incurred will also be put on probation. After two semesters from the time of incurring the Incomplete, the student will be dropped from the Program. If the student believes that extenuating circumstances should be considered, s/he may appeal to the Executive Committee.

  • The M.A. Exam

At least three weeks prior to the students scheduled M.A. exam (see below) the student will come to the LACIS office and fill out a warrant request. This request will be forwarded to the graduate school for review to ensure all requirements are met. If there are any incompletes or unpaid fees the graduate school or program office will contact the student. When all requirements are met, the graduate school will send the warrant to the program office where the student will pick it up and take it to their exam to be signed by the committee.

Students who will not be enrolled in the semester in which they intend to graduate may petition to the Graduate School for permission to pay a degree completion fee instead. The Program Coordinator should be notified in the preceding semester so s/he can process the request.

  • Residence

For the Master’s degree, two semesters of residence is required. Graduate residence credit and course credit may be transferred from another institution only after the student has completed at least one semester at the University of Wisconsin, pending Graduate School approval. Verification of residence credit must be done at the Master’s Examiner’s Office; the LACIS office cannot make that verification. Students who are enrolled in a dual degree program with a professional school should look into residence requirements at that school.

  • The Oral Examination

Completion of the Master’s degree requires satisfactory performance in a one-hour oral examination. The examination will be conducted by three professors from at least two departments, including the field of concentration. The examination will focus on the seminar paper in the field of concentration as well as the more general subject matter pertaining to the paper topic. Possible grades on the exam are Pass, Deficient, and Fail. A student receiving a Deficient may retake the exam within the following semester. Members of the examination committee will provide recommendations for making up deficiencies. A Failure will result in the student’s being dropped from the Program. An appeal to the Executive Committee is possible but only on procedural grounds. That is, the student must present evidence that the committee conducted the examination unfairly. Failure to pass a second time will result in the student’s being dropped from the Program.

  • Scheduling the M.A. Exam
  1. The student is responsible for choosing their committee members. Early in the semester in which the exam will be taken, a commitment from three professors to serve on the exam committee should be obtained. The advisor in the student’s field of concentration must be designated as the committee chair (see page 2, section on Advising). The committee chair will, in consultation with LACIS “Guidelines for Staying on Track,” help the student to define the range of topics to be covered in the exam.
  2. The degree deadline date (found on the graduate school website) should be consulted when planning the exam. As early as possible, the Program Coordinator should be given the committee members’ names and the date and time of the exam. The Program Coordinator will reserve a room for the exam. The student will receive confirmation of this information.
  3. At least one week before the exam, the student must distribute one copy of the seminar paper and related topics list to each of the committee members and one copy to the Program office. Please note that this is the formal distribution of the final version of your paper to all the committee members. However, your committee chair, in consultation with you, should have had an opportunity to make comments on the paper at least four weeks before the final distribution date (i.e. five weeks before your M.A. exam, or at an earlier time mutually negotiated). Your committee chair must have approved the final version of your paper before you distribute it to your committee.
  4. The Program Coordinator will request the degree warrant. On the day of your exam, the student will pick up the warrant at the LACIS office. After the exam is completed, the committee signs the warrant and the student returns it to the Program Coordinator, who then sends it to the Graduate School. The diploma will be issued three to four months after the end of the student’s last semester.

Financial Aid

  • Fellowships

Fellowship applicants must submit all application materials by January 5th; earlier submission of materials is extremely helpful to our staff. Transcripts, GRE scores and letters of recommendation submitted for the admission application will be used for the fellowship competitions as well. There are no fellowship funds available for spring semester applicants. Unless otherwise stated, foreign students are eligible for these awards if their undergraduate institution’s language of instruction was English, or if they have completed at least two semesters at an institution in the U.S. Full-time registration (9-12 graduate credits) is required for all of these awards.

The following fellowships require that you be nominated by the LACIS Admissions and Fellowships Committee. Students will be considered for all awards for which they are eligible if they check the “Fellowships” box on the Graduate School application form.

  • Advanced Opportunity Fellowship

Financially needy members of the following groups are eligible for this award: Black (African) American; American Indian, Aleut or Eskimo; Hispanic/Latino; Cambodian, Vietnamese, Laotian, or Hmong; educationally disadvantaged nonminority persons; or McNair scholars. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents. Both incoming and continuing students are eligible for this award. New applicants check the “Fellowships” box and complete the race information on the Graduate School application form. Continuing students should request the Application for Financial Aid for Currently Enrolled Students from the Program Assistant. Students nominated by the LACIS will be required to submit a financial information form to the Graduate School. The award covers out-of-state tuition and includes an additional stipend (up to $19,710 in 2015-16) for incoming fellows.

  • Additional Awards

LACIS endowments provide support for a modest number of supplemental awards. LACIS will consider eligible students for these awards if they check the “Fellowships Box.” The student must initiate an application for the following award:

Foreign Language and Area Studies Graduate Fellowships (HEA Title VI)

This competition is funded by the U.S. Department of Education to encourage training in language and area studies. The LACIS Fellowships Committee follows the U.S.D.E. priorities for languages and disciplines in making these awards. For the Latin American area, priority is given to applicants in Brazilian Portuguese and Quechua; awards are not made to study Spanish. These awards cover tuition and fees plus a stipend ($15,000 in 2015-16) for Graduate students, and up to $10,000 towards tuition (and a $5,000 stipend) for Undergraduates. Fellows must register full-time, taking at least one language course and one related area studies course each semester. Foreign students are not eligible. Applications are available online at in early December and are due in early-February. Please note: to use summer FLAS fellowships abroad, students must be eligible for advanced language training.

For further information and assistance about financial aid please visit the Office of Student Financial Aid

For more information about the program, please contact LACIS’ Associate Director, Alberto Vargas.

Additional information can be found on the Graduate School website: