The Institute of Latin American Service and Studies

The Institute of Latin American Service and Studies (ILASS) is a center of Pace University’s Dyson College of Arts and Sciences. ILASS was founded in 1994 by Dr. Daniel Greenberg. A member of the History Department, he is a specialist on Brazil, Peru, Argentina, and Venezuela.

Dr. Greenberg had a vision of educational innovation: connecting students with Latin America through challenging coursework and direct experience. He believed that there was a better way to help students grasp the complex, multi-dimensional aspects of Latin culture, economic and social reality than that offered by the conventional “classroom within four walls.” Working with this concept, he created a system to combine travel and community service with traditional classroom techniques.  In 1994, Dr. Greenberg, accompanied by Dr. Jordan Young, a respected fellow historian and specialist on Brazil, made an exploratory trip to Rio de Janeiro to meet with school and city officials in order to lay the groundwork for an innovative course, Service and Study in Latin America, to organize students to carry out a community development project at a public school in a favela (shantytown) neighborhood. In Spring, 1995, the first group of Pace students spent a week painting and performing other rehabilitation of the school’s decaying physical planclass arrived to sped. Both New Yorkers and Brazilians found the experience rewarding. Students reported that it had “changed me as a person” and broadened their educational experience.  Some said the course had transformed their personal values, leading to a decision to change their major to a more humanistic area of study.

The Institute Expands
Based on this success, ILASS began to develop contacts in Argentina and Peru in hopes of expanding the program. The 1997 Argentine project involved work in a community hospital whose patients were Quechua Indians. Again, the response of both Americans and Argentines was strongly affirmative.  In 1999, a third team travelled to Peru and visited Cuzco, Machu Picchu and Piura. This time, the Pace group helped stanch the devastating effect of El Nino flooding on the region’s farming population. In a small agricultural village, Pace students joined a local neighborhood group in a “bootstrap” project to attack hunger. Moreover, the group witnessed a growing Latin American phenomenon which also offers lessons in world citizenship: During the post-1990 era, Latin poor have developed forms of collective empowerment to overcome the worst impacts of poverty.

Latin American Studies Minor and Certificate Programs
In 1997 the Institute’s activity expanded with the creation of a new multi-disciplinary minor in Latin American Studies.  Dr. Greenberg and the Modern Languages Department’s Dr. Antonia Garcia-Rodriguez were key players in shaping this program. The minor drew on Pace’s high quality faculty in the departments of History, Modern Languages and Cultures and Economics. To enhance the minor, two new Interdisciplinary courses were created: LAS 201: Latin America, the Caribbean and the World, and LAS 230: “So Far from God; So Close to Uncle Sam”: Modern Mexico in History and Literature. Fueled by keen student and faculty interest, the minor quickly “took off,” becoming the largest such program in only four years. In 2001, the program was expanded to the Westchester campus. A program of co-curricular activities was launched.  This included a film series, the Bolivar/Kahlo Lectureship, and an annual “American Ethnic Studies Day.” And in 2005, the Bolivar/Kahlo Award was created to honor the program’s valedictorian.

In 2003, a major milestone was attained when Dr. Greenberg won a federal grant to expand the program from three to eight Liberal Arts departments,  Moreover, in 2006 a new Latin American Studies Certificate program was created, offering students an important new option. The grant made also made possible a program of visits from Latin American cultural and scientific leaders, and a strengthened Library curricular collection.

The New Latin American Studies Bachelor of Arts Program
The LAS Certificate and Minor programs have been outstanding successes, growing to over 100 enrolled students by Spring, 2009.  Recognizing this fact and responding to student demand for an interdisciplinary major, in Spring, 2009 a new LAS major was created.  Formed at the initiative of LAS Program faculty and including eight Dyson departments, the major contains 41 courses, including seven LAS interdisciplinary learning communities.  The LAS major promises to be one of Dyson College’s most exciting new programs.

For More Information on the ILASS or the LAS Program
To learn more about the Latin American Studies Program, contact an advisor.