Skip to main content

Getting Involved with Latin American and Latinx Studies

October 20, 2020

The following excerpts are from a conversation with Catherine Bartch, Associate Director for Latin American and Latinx Studies (LALS) at the University of Pennsylvania, as part of a Fall 2021 info session on Penn Law’s International Certificates and Joint Degrees.


Background on Catherine Bartch

Just to give you some background on me, I’m the Associate Director of Latin American Latinx Studies, so I help run the program and the events. I also have a Ph.D. in Political Science. The courses that I teach also might overlap with some of your interests but are mostly for undergraduates. I teach International Organizations in Latin America. I teach an academically-based community service course called Diplomacy in the Americas. Sometimes in the summer, I teach a Latinx and the Law course.

About LALS

We’re an interdisciplinary program housed in the School of Arts and Sciences and we have a number of objectives. We offer minors and majors to undergraduates, but also have a robust graduate student constituency. We have a robust speaker series, external speakers that we bring in, and also internal speakers.

To give you some examples, we offer an External Speakers Series, where Penn professors invite people to talk to their class, and we open it up to the LALS community and the larger community. Kathryn Sikkink is going to be coming to my class today to talk about her book, Evidence for Hope: Making Human Rights Work in the 21st Century. We also have somebody talking about anti-racist pedagogy and Portuguese language on Thursday. You can check our website for the internal-external speaker series.

Next Thursday night, we have an event on the Flores Exhibits, which are exhibits revealing testimonials of minors detained at the border and bringing attention to the impact the executive branch has on immigration policy. Fernando Chang-Muy of Penn Law will be a panelist on this. Then, next Friday, we’re very excited to have one of Penn’s renowned professors, Michael Jones-Correa, who is one of the foremost scholars on Latinx studies in the United States. He’s going be talking about Latinx civic engagement. You can check our website for other upcoming events.

We also have one more thing: a graduate advisory board, which we have graduate students from all across Penn. And we’d love to have law students. Right now we just have mostly Ph.D. students from the School of Arts and Sciences. But it would be great to have a law student as part of that advisory board. We’d love to have you.

Penn Law Certificate in LALS

We have a number of certificates for graduate students as well all across the University of Pennsylvania. A few years back, our former director, Dr. Emilio Parrado helped set up the LALS certificate for Penn Law students. First, I’ll just talk briefly about what you need to do if you’re interested in pursuing a certificate in Latin American Latinx Studies.

This certificate is for Penn Law students [who] would like to gain exposure to Latin American Latinx Studies in conjunction with your studies. As part of the requirements, students must successfully complete five courses in Latin American Latinx Studies.

Two of these courses must be taken inside the law school. Off the top of my head, I know Fernando Chang-Muy offers a number of courses that we do cross-list. International Law and International Business Transactions also qualify. Usually, for a course to qualify for the certificate, we ask that it has 30 percent content related to Latin American Latinx Studies. But contact us to discuss eligibility.

Three courses must be taken outside the law school. The courses can be any of our upper-level courses (usually 400, 500, or 600) – you’ll see some in Hispanic Studies, some in Sociology, some in Political Science. We had a certificate student from Wharton last year who took undergraduate courses with a professor who worked with him to make sure that he wrote the proper papers and assignments to receive graduate credit.

Finally, students must demonstrate proficiency in Spanish, French, Portuguese, or less commonly taught language. If you have a good command of the language, this doesn’t need to be met through coursework at Penn. If you’ve maybe minored or majored in Spanish that might be sufficient. If you grew up speaking Spanish or if you’re living in Brazil and we know you have a good command of Portuguese, that would be sufficient.

We do ask that students take a sort of informal placement exam. You would just come to me and talk, and either I or the Director of Latin American Latinx Studies would assess whether you meet the requirements for language proficiency.