WPI’s Latin American 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.

This effort to create a central place for scholarly activity and educational resources that connect WPI with Latin America 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.


Campus to Global

Latin American 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 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.



Latin American Curriculum

Latin American 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 Culture and Civilization, students have access to new course offerings specifically geared toward those interested in Latin American Studies.

New Latin American course offerings: 

  • Introduction to Latin America
  • Modern Latin America
  • Topics in Latin American History
  • Latin America 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 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.

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.

This year’s Arts & Sciences Week 2019 celebration included events focusing on Latin American studies at WPI and embodied the theme of “Imagine, Innovate, Impact!”

Growing interest, increasing global partnerships, faculty research, and other types of engagement with the Latin American and the Caribbean region is driving development of more robust programming in Latin American Studies at WPI. Arts & Sciences Week highlighted the scholarship of A&S students and faculty and celebrated the vitality and diversity of Latin America and the Caribbean.

This year’s Arts & Sciences Week ran from September 16-20, 2019.

Aarti Smith Madan

Aarti Smith Madan

Associate Professor
Humanities and Arts

Aarti Smith Madan is an Associate Professor of Spanish & International Studies in the Department of Humanities and Arts at WPI. Her research centers on the ways spatial practices inform the production and consumption of literature, film, and art in Latin America. In her recently published monograph, Lines of Geography in Latin American Narrative: National Territory, National Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), Professor Madan unearths the literary roots of the discipline of geography in nineteenth-century Latin America.

John Starosta Galante

John Starosta Galante

Assistant Teaching Professor
Humanities and Arts

John Galante’s scholarly interests are primarily in Latin American history, international history and global studies. His teaching and research focuses on international migration and the patterns of homeland connection and receiving-country adaptation associated with migratory movement. His professional experience in the energy sector informs his teaching on the history, geopolitics and global market dynamics of energy. He has particular expertise on South America and the Southern Cone, where he has worked, conducted fieldwork and travelled extensively.


William San Martín

Assistant Teaching Professor
Humanities & Arts

William San Martín is a global historian and STS (Science & Technology Studies) Scholar interested in the intersections of expertise, environmental change, and public policy. He specializes in science-policy interface, environmental & animal studies, international development, race & justice, and U.S.-Latin American relations.


Angel A. Rivera

Associate Professor of Spanish
Humanities & Arts

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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