Latin American Studies BA

Program Purpose

Latin American Studies is an interdisciplinary degree that combines advanced-language experience with study in humanities, social science, and/or business. It is designed to develop a deep and complex understanding of Latin American culture, politics, history and contemporary affairs. It also aims to develop general skills in analytical thinking, methods of interpretation, perceptive reading and competent writing. Coursework is designed to increase mental dexterity and to instill intellectual curiosity and lifelong habits of thought that will permit students to interpret Latin America and the world around them from a variety of perspectives. 

Curricular Structure

Students complete between 36-51 credits, depending on where they begin their language sequence. These credits are distributed as follows:

A) Latin American Studies Courses (6 hours):

B) Basic Language Courses (15 hours):

C) Advanced Language and Culture Courses (6 hours):

D) Social Science Courses (9 hours):

E) Humanities Courses (6 hours):

F) Elective Courses (6 hours): (see MAP sheet)

G) Internship (3 hours):

Program Application:

A majority of LAS Majors test out of the basic language requirement and begin their study at Spanish or Portuguese 321. Hence the major usually consists of 36 hours. All students are required to complete an internship which creates a meaningful experience either in a Latin American country or  in an environment, domestically, that draws upon their Latin Americans expertise.

The curricular structure described above (and in greater detail on the attached LAS MAP sheet), allows each student to master a foreign language and culture and then use that knowledge to serve Latin American people in an internship experience. The major harmonizes with the aims of a BYU education in that each student receives an in-depth background for an area of the world where he or she will most likely have spent some period of time giving service. LAS students prepare for lifelong service and are strengthened intellectually by their studies of Latin America.

Major Academic Plan

Undergraduate Catalog

Learning Outcomes

Students will write a substantive research paper (12-16 pages), of student journal quality, which interprets and analyzes the academic component of the internship experience.

Factual Knowledge

The student will understand and interpret foundational knowledge relating to historical, socio-cultural, geographic and economic conditions in Latin America, as well as how Latin America interacted with world powers.

Courses that Contribute: IAS 301
Linked to BYU Aims: Gospel knowledge, Lifelong service
Social Science Research and Writing Methodology

Our LAS students will understand basic methodologies of social science research and writing as well as humantities/language based research.  This includes modern library skills, as well as humanities/language based research. Students will demonstrate their understanding by writing papers in Spanish and/or Portuguese, as well as producing a major capstone project of 20 plus pages.

Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Communicate effectively, Competence
Oral Presentation of Critically Analyzed Ideas

LAS students will be able to critically analyze ideas, evidence, and arguments relating to a topic or a significant historical event/process in Latin America, and make a significant oral presentation, demonstrating recent knowledge from books, newspapers, and journals, many of which are written in target languages.

Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Think soundly, Quantitative reasoning
Language Proficiency

LAS students will demonstrate written and verbal fluency in both Spanish or Portuguese.

Courses that Contribute: None
Linked to BYU Aims: Communicate effectively, Competence

Evidence of Learning

Most formal assessment occurs in the individual courses through exams, papers, research reports, learning journals, etc. In an attempt to standardize expectations, LAS 211 was created to project norms for the major. This introductory course is normally taken early in the student's career. During the last semester of coursework the student takes LAS 495, a capstone course in which she or he demonstrates competencies gained during the major. The faculty member who teaches this class regularly reports to the LAS Executive Committee regarding each student's progess. Since the faculty of Latin American Studies are all housed in more "traditional" departments, no assessment of faculty performance occurs in the Kennedy Center. The program for students, however, is regularly evaluated and reviewed by the six-member Executive Committee of LAS, composed of faculty from the Colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences. This evaluation is based on questionnaires or essays that graduating seniors complete during their last semester.

Direct Measures

  1. During her/his studies of Latin America, the student will write three major papers which will serve as the basis for an academic portfolio. The first will be written during the Introduction to Latin American Studies 211 course, and graded by the professor of that class; the second paper will be evalauted by the instructor of Spanish or Portuguese 339; the third paper will reflect the research of the student's internship experience and be graded by the mentoring professor of that activity. Ungraded copies of each of these papers will become part of the student's portfolio.
  2. Library and research skills will be evaluated by the professor of the captstone course, LAS 495.
  3. Written and oral proficiency in Spanish or Portuguese will be measured by successful completion of at least three 300 or 400-level classes in that target language.

Indirect Measures

  1. In a personal interview with the coordinator of LAS each student will plan out her/his career options and interest with respect to Latin America.

Learning and Teaching Assessment and Improvement

The student learning portfolio is the basis for aiding students to improve their reading, writing and research. The three major papers included in this porfolio reflect the students' first writing, their writing and researching in a foreign language, and the final research paper, expected to be of quality to publish in a student journal. If students do not demonstrate improvement they will meet with the coordinator to work out a plan to show progress.