A new program that helps students to develop academic strengths in Latin American Studies and specialize in additional areas is gaining wide student interest at Texas A&M International University.
The Bachelor of Arts degree at A&M International was recently approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for offering in the Fall 2001 semester.
Dr. Kathleen Pletsch de García, Latin American Studies program committee chair, said the program was created because a University survey of students showed a positive response for the establishment of such a program.
"We also think that there is an interest in the community in general. Local businesses, as well as the City of Laredo, have reported the need for people who are educated on Latin America's issues, culture and way of life," Dr. Pletsch de García said.
Tailored to meet students' needs in preparing for a global market, the program, besides core and foundation courses, includes a language certification requirement in Spanish as well as primary and secondary areas of specialization.
Pletsch de García said that the primary and secondary areas were designed so that students could gain exposure to a variety of issues dealing with Latin America across a number of disciplines.
"This program is unique in that it affords students an opportunity to choose upper division courses from the College of Arts and Humanities as well as those in the College of Science and Technology and College of Business Administration," she said. "This, we believe, creates a well-rounded person in Latin American Studies in all areas."
Primary areas of concentration can be chosen from history/geography, political science, sociology/anthropology and Spanish. Secondary areas can be chosen from business administration, management, marketing, communication, history and environmental science, Pletsch de García said.
Unlike other Latin American Studies programs in the nation, A&M International's program also offers a secondary area of concentration in Border Studies for students concentrating in Spanish, Pletsch de García said.
Also, with new University courses offered in Portuguese and French, students can contemplate graduating from the program with knowledge of three languages spoken throughout Latin America, she said.
"Our objective is to create students that are knowledgeable about Latin America. This area is extremely important to the United States economically, politically and in terms of natural resources. For this reason, it is crucial for us to prepare professionals who can work in the realm of Latin America," she said, adding that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has also created new activities along the U.S.-Mexico border that require expertise in Latin America.
Pursuing this program in Laredo also provides a distinct advantage because students can study while they become exposed to Spanish speaking opportunities locally, Pletsch de García said.
"This program came to us naturally, it's a given for Laredo," Pletsch de García said, "Since we already have the Spanish, we are ahead of the game compared to other people. Most universities have to create an artificial learning environment to learn Spanish and it takes two to three years to reach the level of proficiency that our students already have. We are taking perfect advantage of what we have."
A Latin American Studies program in Laredo is also likely to attract students from other cities who may not otherwise have the opportunity to practice Spanish, Pletsch de García said.
A graduate of this program can expect to find jobs in numerous areas including education, tourism, federal agencies, U.S.-Mexico border agencies, and public and private enterprises, Pletsch de García said.
"Since you can tailor your studies to your own interests, the opportunities are legion," she said. "Also, there are some people that choose to work abroad and, in turn, may use their expertise on the United States in Latin American countries," she said.
For further information, please contact Pletsch de García at 326-2614 or visit the office located in Killam Library 415B. She can also be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. University office hours are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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