Master of Arts Program

Overview of Requirements: To complete the Master of Arts Degree in Regional Studies—Latin America and the Caribbean, students take a minimum of 30 points of graduate course credit, fulfill two concentrations, and submit an M.A. thesis. In order for courses to count towards the 30-credit requirement for completion of the degree, they must be taken for a letter grade (i.e., courses taken P/F and R credit do not count toward the degree). Students must also satisfy two Residence Units (RU’s) and maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.00 (B).  Students should become familiar with the graduation requirements and policies of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences found in the graduate student policy handbook.

Students may complete the program on a part time basis by registering for half RU’s (up to three courses per semester) or quarter RU’s (one-two courses per semester) in order to complete the program in four academic years (up to eight semesters, including summer). More information may be found here.

Overview of Curriculum: During the first semester of the core seminar (LCRS G6400) students explore approaches to Latin American studies and develop a thesis topic. In the second semester (LCRS G6401), they undertake the writing of their theses in a workshop-style seminar. Students are free to pace their coursework according to their own needs and interests, although most complete the degree in two or three semesters. Students can start in the Fall or Spring semesters, but must complete the required Core seminar in a Fall-Spring sequence, preferably in consecutive semesters. Students typically finish in two semesters, with some students taking the option of completing the thesis project over the summer.

Overview of Program Advisement: The primary advisor for practical questions concerning coursework and degree requirements is Gustavo Azenha, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Students should meet in person with the DGS at the beginning of each semester to discuss course selection. They are also encouraged to meet with the DGS throughout the semester to discuss degree progress and any specific issues or problems. Besides providing overall academic advisement for MARSLAC students, the DGS serves as the primary thesis supervisor, with students working with a faculty co-advisor with relevant expertise as a mentor for their thesis project.  For additional information on thesis advisement, please refer to the MARSLAC Thesis Guidelines for Co-Advisors and Students.



LCRS G6400, G6401

The two-semester core course sequence, LCRS G6400 and LCRS G6401, Scholarly Literature and Research on Latin American and Caribbean Studies I and II, must be taken in sequence starting in the Fall.

The first semester core course gives students a critical understanding of the major theoretical approaches, principal research methods, and current trends in Latin American and Caribbean studies. Class meetings are organized around discussion of key texts or approaches, structured through the historical evolution of recent interpretive and research models. Latin Americanist and Caribbeanist faculty at Columbia University participate as guest lecturers to introduce students to their research. During the first semester, students develop a proposal for a M.A. thesis in consultation with the Director of Gradaute Studies (DGS) and another faculty member from the specific field of the student’s interest who serves as co-advisor. The second semester core course is a seminar in which students conduct research on sources and methods necessary to write the M.A. thesis. The two-semester core course sequence culminates with the presentation of the completed M.A. thesis. Students who require more than two semesters to complete a satisfactory thesis will receive a grade for LCRS G6401 based on their work during the second part of the seminar, including substantive advance toward the thesis.


Written in conjunction with the core seminars and under the supervision of the Director of Graduate Studies and an additional faculty co-advisor, the M.A. thesis will deal with a historical or contemporary topic that focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean. The Director of Graduate Studies serves as the primary thesis supervisor, with students working with a co-advisor with relevant expertise as an additional mentor on their thesis project.

The M.A. thesis is meant to demonstrate the student’s ability to apply formal training in Latin American and Caribbean studies toward a specific and original research problem. The thesis must be an original piece of research, interpretation, or analysis based, at least in part, on primary source materials. Students may take a comparative, critical approach to extant research and scholarship; analyze data already collected by others; or test established theories in new situations. MA students who conduct research involving human subjects for a thesis are required to apply to the Institutional Review Board for exemption or approval prior to engaging in the human subjects component of their research.

If students require more than two semesters to complete a satisfactory thesis they can do so in consultation with the DGS and their faculty co-advisor.  The deadline to submit the final thesis is September 15 for October graduation and November 15 for February graduation.

For complete information on thesis guidelines (including requirements, deadlines, and advisement), please refer to the MARSLAC Thesis Guidelines for Co-Advisors and Students.  For formatting guidelines, please refer to the complete MARSLAC Thesis Formatting Guidelines.


Upon entering the program, students select two concentrations, or main areas of study, which could be a particular country or group of countries, discipline, topic or problem. They must take two classes on each concentration.

The Institute compiles a list of designated or eligible courses on Latin America in Anthropology, Economics, History, Business, Political Science and other Arts and Sciences departments as well as the Schools of Business, International Affairs and Law, and in Teachers College. Students can also take methodological courses that would help them develop their thesis research on Latin America as long as they produce paper or reports focused on Latin American themes. Students consult with the DGS to select a combination of concentration courses that together cover multiple countries, regions and time periods. In other words, the depth of training is balanced with a breadth of courses in different topics.

With the approval of the DGS, up to two 4000 level undergraduate courses may be counted as designated or elective courses if they produce a graduate-level research paper or literature review at the end of the course. Language courses under 4000 level can be counted as one of the two undergraduate courses in some circumstances, such as Comprehensive Elementary Portuguese if that language will fulfill their second language requirement. History Department 4000 level seminars can be counted as graduate courses.

In cases where there is a lack of relevant courses to fulfill their specialization requirements, the program advisor can approve individual reading courses. Students can take any Latin American or Caribbean course in addition to the concentration courses to complete the 30 credits required for graduation, with the exceptions noted below.

Please use the MARSLAC degree checklist to record your credits and grades for the program.


Up to two elective courses that do not pertain specifically to Latin America and the Caribbean may be taken with the prior approval of the DGS. Any graduate-level course in any department or school of the University may qualify as an elective. In those courses, the student must produce a research paper of direct relevance to Latin America and the Caribbean.


Students must demonstrate intermediate-advanced proficiency (in accordance with ACTFL standards) in either Spanish or Portuguese (through a language proficiency test administered by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese or by completing a 4000-level Spanish or Portuguese class with a grade of B or above).

Only 4000-level language courses can count toward the 30-point requirement.

For further information, please refer to the language fulfillment guidelines


All students must register for the appropriate residence unit every semester. All students must satisfy TWO RU’s in order to graduate. Details can be found on the GSAS website: