Department Spotlight: Latin American Studies and Women’s Studies


Latin American Studies’ and Women’s Studies’ (LA/W/S) move to a new location has sparked many developments in programs of relatively new majors’ programs. They have joined forces in a new office space where the department hopes to attract more students for their majors and concentrations.
The new office is on the second floor of Loyola Science Center immediately to the left of the Dionne Green entrance. The spacious office is home to both Latin American Studies and Women’s Studies.
At the open house Wednesday, the department invited students and faculty to come and learn more about LA/W/S and eat authentic Mexican cuisine in its brand new office.
Sharon Meagher, Ph.D., chair of LA/W/S and director of women’s studies, said that one of the main purposes of having the open house was to not only celebrate their new office space, but to make the programs visible to everyone. The department faculty want people to be able to find them.
Meagher said it was difficult for students to find out about the programs available and receive guidance on choosing one of the majors because the office areas kept changing. Meagher said that in the past two years her personal office has moved three times due to the construction on campus.
“We never had our own office space, so this is a celebration for us,” Meagher said
Although this was the first open house and is a result mainly of the new space, Meagher said that the department is hoping to make it an annual event to spread awareness of the department.
LA/W/S is hoping to begin staffed lunch hours every day and eventually hope to build up to daily hours in the afternoon where students can come ask questions and receive guidance concerning the areas of studies in the department.
Meagher is positive in her outlook on the new office space. Before, she said, the department shared space with Asian Studies, which made the office area that much more confusing for students and faculty. Women’s Studies has 28 faculty members and Latin American Studies has 14. She said that she hopes this new office space will be easier for students to find and encourage them to stop by.
With this new office, these two small programs are sure to continue growing. The majors were not developed until 2011, making these the two newest majors on campus.
“It takes time before people know about new things,” Meagher said.
The LA/W/S department is unique in the sense that there are two large interdisciplinary programs and much of the faculty who teach in the programs come from different colleges and disciplines.
The two programs merged in 2009 with the overlap allowing for collaboration. An example Meagher gave is that before the merge of the two programs, Women’s Studies was very focused on American women and many students and faculty wanted to globalize the program. Latin American Studies’ entrance allowed them to do so. The course “Women and Development in Latin America” was born through that interest.
Latin American studies also benefited from the addition. Before the merge, Latin American Studies had hardly focused on women in Latin American culture and history, but the partnership allowed collaborative work to expand the program to include more women’s studies. Meagher pointed out that feminism has much to do with economic development and growth in developing nations.
“You get breadth and depth at the same time,” Meagher said about the perspectives students gain from learning the same information in a variety of fields.
An expected feature of LA/W/S is its many study abroad opportunities, both long-term and short-term. Trip destinations include Mexico, Colombia and a recently added spring break trip to El Salvador.
One of the new changes to LA/W/S is the course “Working for Justice,” which will be taught by Meagher and will be offered beginning this spring to any junior or senior and taught by Meagher. The course’s goal is to help students figure out how they might earn a living in social justice work.
“We do such a good job at teaching students about social justice, but maybe not as good a job as we need to about telling them about how they can get paid to do that kind of work after they graduate,” Meagher said.
Next year the department will be hosting a Fulbright Scholar, Farid Benavides. He is a former cabinet member from Colombia’s ministry of justice. His expertise in human rights will be part of the focus in classes he will teach in both the Women’s Studies and Latin American Studies departments.
The abundance of co-curricular programming makes LA/W/S unique. Every semester Latin American studies organizes a film series. Women’s Studies often partners with the Jane Kopas Women’s Center, and multicultural affairs does the same with Latin American Studies to develop events and programs.
Every change adds to this relatively new department’s growth and development.

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