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New Latino Studies minor in effect

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | DECEMBER 02, 2014 5:00 AM

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After a few false starts, the University of Iowa’s new Latino Studies minor program will be in full force next semester.

The UI is the last university in the Big Ten to implement a Latino Studies degree of some kind.

Several other attempts have fallen through since the early 2000s, particularly after a hiring push in 2006.

“Often, those have been the initiative of one or a handful of people, and then when that person leaves the institution or changes positions, the initiative has kind of fallen by the wayside,” said Claire Fox, a UI professor in both the English and Spanish/Portuguese Departments.

Fox co-directs the new minor with UI history Associate Professor Omar Valerio-Jiménez. She said the latest proposal began after the UI hosted a 2012 symposium called the Latino Midwest.

The UI Student Government voiced support for the proposal in February.

“It seemed like, for the first time in my time here at Iowa, that there was enough momentum in terms of faculty investment, student interest, and general institutional availability to start organizing a Latino Studies Program of some kind,” Fox said.

Students can declare the minor now following its approval by university officials right before the end of the spring 2014 semester, but a required introductory course will not begin until spring 2015.

Fox and Valerio-Jiménez join an advisory board of several professors from areas including the College of Public Health, political science, and communication studies.

In addition to the required course, students will apply courses from departments across the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Fox said she hopes to include public-health and education courses soon as well.

UI Ph.D. student Carla Gonzalez, who was involved in proposing and lobbying for the new degree, is happy to see her efforts come to fruition.

“I think it’s a great addition to the UI because it’s a perspective that’s needed,” she said. “It’s important to understand [the Latino population] because of the growing population in Iowa that’s only going to increase.”

In the spring of 2014, the UI awarded a minor in African-American Studies, 21 minors in Asian languages and literature, four minors in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality studies, and 13 minors in international studies, according to registrar documents.

UI sophomore Jiangqi Guo said the degree can help to solve social and political issues regarding immigration.

“I think it’s necessary because there’s a lot of Latino immigrants in America, and it’s very important to know their culture,” she said.

The advisory board for the minor comprises public-health Assistant Professor Barbara Baquero, political-science Associate Professor Rene Rocha, theater Assistant Professor Tlaloc Rivas, communication studies Assistant Professor Darrel Wanzer-Serrano, Spanish/Portuguese Assistant Professor Christine Shea, and Spanish/Portuguese Associate Professor Ana Merino.

To promote the new minor, faculty have distributed fliers — including at Latino-based functions — and will create a new website.

Fox said the minor complements other programs and infrastructure on campus related to Latino students.

“I think we’re going to see the numbers of Latinos in the state and the institution growing in the years to come,” she said. “We’re thrilled that this is off the ground, and we’re really looking forward to building it over the next couple of years.”


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