In an effort to connect LALC alumni with current students, we asked some of our alumni to share how they’re applying their LALC major in their chosen career path. If you’d like to connect with one of the alumni or share your LALC story on the page, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Logan Puck ’05
I grew up in Shelburne, Vermont and graduated from Dickinson College in 2005. I had little knowledge of Latin America before entering Dickinson College, however, I became fascinated with the region after taking an Introduction to Latin American Studies class taught by Professor Mark Ruhl. I became highly intrigued by the constant struggles of these nations to assert their independence and sovereignty despite constant encroachments by the United States government and other outsiders. Fortunately, I was able to continue to pursue this interest at Dickinson by taking many more classes on the region and studying abroad in Cuba and Mexico. At the time, there was no LALC major, only a certificate in Latin American Studies, which is what I received upon graduation. My thesis focused on the impact of the 1980s Sandinista revolution on women in Nicaragua today. Since graduating, I have dedicated my career to the people, politics, and history of Latin America. I first spent a year teaching kindergarten at a non-profit bilingual school in Copan Ruinas, Honduras and then worked as a youth coordinator at La Comunidad España, a social service organization in Kennett Square, PA dedicated to serving the local Mexican migrant community. Afterward, I interned at the Latin American Working Group, an advocacy group in Washington, DC where I worked on improving relations between the Cuban and U.S. governments. I then returned to graduate school to pursue my interest in Latin American politics. I received my M.A. in Latin American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley where I focused my thesis on relations between Honduras and the U.S. in the 1960s. I am now a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Politics at the University of California at Santa Cruz where I am studying the private security industry in Mexico. I just completed a year of field work in various parts of Mexico and I am now back in the United States writing my dissertation. I am very thankful for the opportunities Dickinson College provided for me to spark and further my interest in Latin America. It is very likely I would have majored in LALC if it existed when I was student.
Melissa Nolan, ’08
Prior to attending Dickinson, I knew that I wanted to study about the history and cultures of Latin America. I was born in Colombia, and grew up in Massachusetts, but it was the years I spent at Dickinson where my love for the region grew. Although the LALC major had not yet existed, I majored in Spanish and minored history with a certificate in Latin American Studies. A year before starting the program, I attended a pre-college program in Querétaro, Mexico which gave me a taste of the challenging nature of the coursework and the opportunities for language immersion and study abroad. I took advantage of this by taking classes on Latin American politics, literature, social movements, and
democracy, as well as spending my junior year abroadin Málaga, Spain and Santiago, Chile. My experience in Chile inspired me to learn more about the democratic transitions that took place in the Southern Cone and to focus my thesis on the democratization process and historic memory in Chile.
Following graduation in 2008 I was awarded a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship. In 2010 I lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina where I spent one year taking graduate level courses prior to beginning my MA in Latin American Studies at Georgetown University. In this degree, I took seminars on topics such as peace and conflict resolution, specializing on the Colombian armed conflict, as well as democracy, human rights, and social change. To complement my research on the armed conflict in Colombia, I interned at Peace Brigades International, the Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular – Programa por la Paz and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Presently, I work for the National Endowment for Democracy on the Latin America and the Caribbean program. I am entering my third year working on this team to support civil society organizations that promote and deepen democracy within their own countries. My abroad experience, courses and professors at Dickinson certainly influenced and prepared me for this career choice. My study abroad experience in Santiago, Chile first opened my eyes to the challenges that the region faces, and the interdisciplinary nature of my education is what excited me to learn about the cultures, history and politics of a region that faces numerous democratic deficits. I also credit my education at Dickinson for helping me attain the Rotary Scholarship, specifically my professors for challenging me to think critically in preparation for my graduate workload and my current job.
Missy Reif ’13
While at Dickinson, I took a number of LALC classes related to history, culture, and anthropology of the region. I also spent the fall of my junior year in São Paulo, Brazil, where I studied Brazilian Diplomatic History and Contemporary Brazilian Foreign Policy at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo. Therefore, while my Dickinson degree says “International Studies” on it, I still like to think of myself as a LALC major. I focused primarily on history and foreign policy, and ultimately wrote my IS final paper on the shift in Brazilian foreign policy away from alignment with the United States.
In February 2014, I moved to Fortaleza, Brazil on a Fulbright Grant to work as an English Teaching Assistant at the Federal University of Ceará. My primary responsibilities included running extracurricular activities, like English conversation clubs, and facilitating cultural exchange. In October 2014, I was one of ten ETAs asked to return for another year as a Mentor to new Fulbrighters. Orientation for the 2015 year started today (March 2nd), and I’m looking forward to another great year in Brazil!
My LALC experience definitely prepared me well to take on “the real world.” Despite having never studied security or defense or working as an English teacher, I felt totally prepared to face these challenges. The diverse nature of the LALC program and its emphasis on critical thinking allows students to pursue a number of different paths following graduation.