TAMIU Grad Students Attend Harvard Conference on Latin America
Posted: 11/13/14

TAMIU Grad Students Attend
Harvard Conference on Latin America

Two Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) graduate students recently participated in the Harvard College Initiative for Latin American Relations (HILAR) where they heard from leading academics, public figures, and activists and discussed pressing issues facing Latin America.

Selina Lugo (’12, BA), graduate student, TAMIU College of Arts and Sciences Department of Public Affairs and Social Research Political Science Program, and Lorena Zapata, BA/MA student, political science, attended the conference in Cambridge, Mass., in October.

Lorena Zapata and Selina Lugo

Lorena Zapata and Selina Lugo at the Harvard College Initiative for Latin American Relations.

“When Selina and Lorena heard about the conference they jumped at the opportunity to attend. Our master’s program in History and Political Thought is interdisciplinary. As such, it attracts students who travel frequently to conferences and archives for research purposes,” said Dr. Mark Menaldo, assistant professor and director, TAMIU College of Arts and Sciences Department of Public Affairs and Social Research Political Science Program.

HILAR is a student-run organization at Harvard College which aims to unite the region’s current and future leaders in business, public service and academia. Through their conferences, leaders engage in candid and fruitful discussions resulting in stronger connections across the Americas.

“The speakers and their presentations were highly illuminating regarding present issues in Latin America such as immigration, LGBT rights, the economy, and the importance of language—specifically Spanish,” said Lugo.

The Conference’s themes were migration and the LGBTQ community in Latin America.

Lugo explained that two of her current classes focus on Latin American politics and political philosophy and those seminars fueled her interest in attending the conference.

“The most exciting part was participating in the Social Impact Challenge. Groups were given a particular complex issue. We were then expected to create an innovative and plausible solution for it in two-and-a-half hours and then present it. Our presentation had to combat the issue and illustrate its ability to be implemented and its subsequent financial stability to our fellow conference attendees.

“It was extremely exhilarating to be able to discuss and debate and find resolutions with students from places such as France, Canada, México, Ecuador and other regions from Latin America,” Lugo said.

Zapata also noted she was excited about meeting people with different backgrounds during the conference.

“The most interesting and unique part of the Conference was meeting very diverse individuals. I met a Canadian student who is half Salvadorian and half Iranian and spoke four different languages,” Zapata said.

She mentioned that one of the highlights of the Conference was a presentation about Hispanic linguistics and how important it is to Latino culture.

“I am writing my honors thesis about Latin America and am also taking a class on Latin America. The whole experience helped me gain new views of Latin America from Latin Americans themselves,” Zapata said.

“I am thankful to Dr. Menaldo for telling me about the Conference and for Dr. Claudia San Miguel, chair, department of public affairs and social research, for making it possible for me to attend,” Zapata added.

Lugo recommends other students take advantage of the opportunities to travel to conferences such as HILAR.

“The intellectual ambiance that surrounds Harvard is like no other. I like to think I took some of it with me and left some of my own there with those who I was able to confer with. I would recommend other students embark on such an academic experience if ever able,” Lugo said.

“When students join the BA/MA and master’s programs at TAMIU, they get individualized attention, support, and experiences such as HILAR that helps transform them into self-directed learners. We expect our graduate program to grow in size in the next few years, so experiences such as these will become common among our student cohort,”  Dr. Menaldo explained.

The TAMIU Office of Graduate Studies provided the funds for both students to travel to the Conference.

For more information on HILAR, visit harvardilar.weebly.com

Registration for Spring 2015 is underway at tamiu.edu

For more information, contact Menaldo at mark.menaldo@tamiu.edu or 326.2651 or visit offices in Dr. F.M. Canseco Hall, room 313A.

University office hours are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu