Latin American and Caribbean Studies

WPI’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Initiative brings together on- and off-campus communities to confront critical issues that affect Latin America, the Caribbean, and the wider world.

Through collaboration among the university’s four schools—Arts & Sciences, The Global School, Business, and Engineering—the initiative involves diverse forms of engagement between WPI and the region, as well as broader issues and activities with particular relevance to Latin America and the Caribbean.

This effort to create a central place for scholarly activity and educational resources that connect WPI with Latin America and the Caribbean is built around three issues—sustainability, mobility, and intercultural competency. These areas harness WPI’s academic strengths, help to build a more global institution, and amplify its potential to make an impact in and learn from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Global School Virtual Event Series: Latin America and The Caribbean

The Global School Virtual Event Series is a year-long celebration of The Global School at WPI. Held on December 2, 2020, Latin America and The Caribbean event featured a keynote talk by Nobel Laureate, Carlos Nobre as well as sessions covering WPI’s Engagement with Communities and Sustainability in Latin America and how COVID-19 has affected the economy in the region.

Campus to Global

Latin American and Caribbean Studies take place in and out of the classroom at WPI. Students, faculty, and staff work together in courses, at global project centers, in student clubs, and through on-campus activities. Events bringing together the campus community to engage with topics related to the region have covered recent elections in Brazil, the presence of right-wing nationalism in Latin America, and the crises associated with migration from Latin America and the Caribbean to the United States. In project centers like those in Costa Rica and Paraguay, students work with community partners to confront issues like environmental sustainability and socio-economic development.

See the Spring 2021 Project Competition Winners

WPI’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS) Initiative held its second-annual project competition in Spring 2021. A panel of judges recognized the most outstanding teams and individuals who completed IQPs and HUA capstones through Project Centers based in the region during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Museums Guidebook in Cuenca, Ecuador

This guide helped uncover and highlight interconnections among museums and sites to inspire cultural preservation. As the world emerges from widespread pandemic-imposed shutdowns, having museum-goers return to museums will become increasingly important for the survival of these cultural institutions. Judges appreciated the narratives students developed from the hidden gems and stories.

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Traffic Safety in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The judges thought this study skillfully blended the students’ personal experiences with technology and societal factors to examine safety outcomes in Buenos Aires, a community where traffic safety solutions are needed and would have positive impact.

Wildlife Crossing in Panama

Students proposed a landscape bridge as an environmentally sound and sustainable solution to create a link between two areas of forest and mangroves being impacted by human development, infrastructure, and a growing population.

Project-based Learning in Cuenca, Ecuador

This project was designed around helping students learn by doing—the project-based learning that is a hallmark of a WPI education. Judges thought the students understood the important sociocultural contexts of the community, set clear goals, and implemented age-appropriate curricula. The resources and data should help advocates who are seeking curriculum changes.


Latin American and Caribbean Curriculum

Latin American and Caribbean Studies build pathways for greater understanding of the people, places, and issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. WPI’s comprehensive approach allows students to develop contextual awareness of subjects ranging from the region's infrastructure to the diversity of its culture. Through curriculum development, community building, research, and projects including IQPs, MQPs, and HUA, students broaden their knowledge and intracultural competency, and apply them toward work in the classroom and the field that has a more meaningful impact.

Students can follow their passions and tailor their studies to align with their interests, including earning a minor in Spanish. In addition to advanced language courses such as Spanish-American Literature in the 20th Century or Latin American and Caribbean Culture and Civilization, students have access to new course offerings specifically geared toward those interested in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

New Latin American and Caribbean course offerings: 

  • Introduction to Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Modern Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Topics in Latin American and Caribbean History
  • Latin America and the Caribbean and the World (capstone humanities & arts seminar)


Latin American Project Centers

For years, students have traveled to WPI’s Latin American project centers to work on projects that make an immediate impact on the communities in which they work.

Research topics are as varied as the following:

  • refurbishment and expansion of the Panama Canal
  • investigating how to improve environmental efficiency and sustainability of a junior high school building in Puerto Rico
  • working with local authorities to promote sustainable land use and water protection in rural farming and ranching communities in Ecuador
  • developing a Monteverde Urban Trail for the Sendero Pacifico in Costa Rica

Diverse Approaches to Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Puerto Rico IQP Shifts Gears

When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in fall 2018, students who planned to start their IQPs there had to find a different option. Their determination to help the Puerto Rican community and their persistence in making it happen had far-reaching impact. Read the Herd article how they shifted focus and made a difference.

Developing Professional Skills and Networks

Opportunities for professional development and engagement are important on campus. WPI’s chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) encourages that with professional events, complete community service activities, and focus on personal development and networking opportunities. Read the Herd article about this club on campus.

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Funding Support for Additional Studies

A 2019 Teaching Innovation Grant from the Morgan Teaching & Learning Center, titled Centering Latin America in the WPI Curriculum, will pursue the introduction of content related to Latin America in the Great Problems Seminar and the formation of a pilot cohort of students that will pursue their HUA depth in Latin American Studies.

Celebrating Arts & Sciences Week 2019

Last year’s Arts & Sciences Week 2019 celebration included events focusing on Latin American studies at WPI and embodied the theme of “Imagine, Innovate, Impact!” As WPI increases its global partnerships, faculty research, and other types of engagement with the Latin American and the Caribbean region, the university is facilitating development of more robust programming in Latin American Studies. Arts & Sciences Week highlighted the scholarship of A&S students and faculty and celebrated the vitality and diversity of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Watch this video to see Panmela Castro, Brazilian grafiteira and performance artist, transform a wall in Salisbury Labs into a celebration of Abby Kelley Foster, a tireless abolitionist, suffragist, and Worcester native.

A number of WPI faculty gave lightning talks on various topics and experiences during Arts & Sciences Week 2019. Watch the videos of their talks.

Joe Aguilar Aarti S. Madan
Laureen Elgert Carlos Odria
John Galante Angel Rivera
Courtney Kurlanska William San Martin


Latin American Initiative Events

Students, faculty, and staff had opportunities throughout the year to participate in events focused on the Latin American region. Lectures, book talks, and forums brought visiting scholars to the WPI community to foster open discussion and dialogue.

2021 Events

Resource Radicals: From Petro-Nationalism to Post-Extractivism in Ecuador

Guest Speaker: Thea Riofrancos is an assistant professor of political science at Providence College, an Andrew Carnegie Fellow (2020-2022), and a Radcliffe Institute Fellow (2020-2021).
This event was part of the Collaboration for a Better World speaker series, sponsored by the Department of Integrative and Global Studies, and was co-sponsored by the Latin American and Caribbean Studies program and the Global Lab.

February 26, 2021

2020 Events

Smart Borders: Global Migration & Technology in the 21st Century

This event examined the connections between migration and technology and discuss the challenges in the 21st century.  
Guest speaker: Dr. José Jorge Mendoza, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, co-editor of Radical Philosophy Review 
Faculty Research Panel: Jennifer Rudolph (HUA); Andy Trapp (The Business School); Sarah Stanlick (The Global School); John Galante (HUA); Crystal Brown (SSPS) 
January 28, 2020

The Global School Virtual Event Series: LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN

The Global School Virtual Event Series is a year long celebration of The Global School at WPI and aims to highlight and grow the projects, research, and collaborations WPI has all over the world while focusing on global grand challenge themes.
December 2, 2020

2019 Events

Beyond the Wall: Immigration and Human Rights Across the Americas

Panelists: Aviva Chomsky, Salem State University; John Galante, WPI; Jessica Ordaz, University of Colorado, Boulder; Angel Rivera, WPI; Heather Silber Mohamed, Clark University; Aarti S. Madan, WPI
Presented by Hispanic & Caribbean Student Association (HCSA); Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE); International Student Council (ICS); Brazilian Student Association (BRASA); Department of Humanities & Arts
February 5, 2019

Making Research Personal & Human Rights Intersectional 

Blackness in Brazil and the United States
With Dr. Sarah Soanirina Ohmer, CUNY Lehman College
Sponsored by the Department of Humanities & Arts
April 18, 2019

Book Talk with Sam Erman, University of Southern California 

Discussion of Erman’s book Almost Citizens: Puerto Rico, the U.S. Constitution, and Empire
Featuring Comments by Rosa Carrasquillo, Holy Cross; Holger Droessler, WPI (HUA); Ángel Rivera, WPI (HUA)
November 18, 2019

2018 Events

Brazil and the Future of Democracy in the Americas

Discussing the national and international implications of Brazil’s election
Panelists: Aarti S. Madan, WPI; John Galante, WPI; Alex Sphar, WPI; Thomas Rogers, Emory University
November 27, 2018

John Starosta Galante
John Starosta Galante
Associate Professor of Teaching, Humanities & Arts

John Galante’s interests are primarily in Atlantic History, Latin America, and Global Studies. At WPI, he teaches courses in History, International and Global Studies, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies programs. In addition to introductory level courses, he has designed and taught specialized courses and capstone Humanities seminars on Migration, Ethnicity and Race in the Americas, and Global Energy.

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Angel A. Rivera
Angel A. Rivera

Professor Rivera has been conducting research on 19th- and 20th-century Spanish Caribbean literature and theories related to the exploration of limits or borders (i.e., the edges or places where multiple cultures touch or come into contact). He has been exploring how Caribbean traditional modes of representation have been restructured to significant changes in cultural, literary, and historical contexts.

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