Global Scholars 2017 – Undergraduate Summer Research Program

Latin American Cities: Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, Panama City, and Havana

A summer course, May 16-June 19, 2017

Open for credit to rising juniors and seniors in all Columbia schools. Generous financial aid available.  Applications due in early December.

For more information, please contact Eliza Kwon-Ahn at

Instructor: José C. Moya, Professor of History, Barnard College and Director, Institute of Latin American Studies, Columbia University

Description of the Program

Latin America, where four out of five residents today live in cities, is the most urbanized region in the world.  This Global Scholars Program will explore the historical origins and contemporary realities of urban life in the region through research and travel in five cities that capture Latin America’s cultural diversity.

We will start in Buenos Aires, a city that became the largest in the Southern Hemisphere by the early twentieth century thanks to European immigration, which gave it the largest Italian and Spanish populations outside of Italy and Spain, one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, and a plethora of other groups, including more recently arrivals from Korea, China, and Bolivia.   We then cross the River Plate to Uruguay, which by the early 1900s was the most urbanized country in the world after England, visiting Colonia de Sacramento, a well-preserved colonial town designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and Montevideo, the capital of a country that developed the first welfare state in the Western Hemisphere, and perhaps not coincidently, a city that has been consistently rated as having the highest quality of life in Latin America.  Our next stop sits on a spectacular natural setting and has become synonymous with samba, carnival, beach culture, and other markers of hedonism. But Rio de Janeiro was also the largest slave port in the New World, the entry point for swells of poor Portuguese immigrants, and is today a place of both opulent neighborhoods and favelas, ethno-cultural fusions and socioeconomic rifts. Panama City has long been an economic crossroads.  During colonial times the silver of Peru crossed the pirate-infected isthmus on its way to Spain. The Panama Canal turned it into a link between the Pacific and Atlantic worlds.  More recently, the city has become a global hub of banking and finance, a perfect site to study the local effects of globalization. Havana, like Rio, was long associated with tropical hedonism and it is one of the main and most vibrant sites of African-derived culture in the Americas.  But it is also the capital of one of the last communist countries in the world, one that was isolated from the United States and global capitalism for more than half-a-century and that thus offers a drastic contrast to the other cities, and particularly to Panama City.

During our class meetings and travels, we will explore the evolution of the built environment, public architecture, economies, social and ethno-racial ecologies, and music and art in these five cities.  Through readings, maps, recordings, photographs, films, and site visits, students will learn about the urbanscape and life in these cities and produce a research paper (or project in other medium) that will be due a week after the end of the course.

Consortium partners/host institutions/Dates

-May 17 – May 24: Buenos Aires- Universidad de San Andres
-May 24 – May 28: Montevideo – Universidad de la República
-May 28 – June 6: Rio de Janeiro – PUC and Global Center
-June 7 – June 10: Panama – TBD
-June 11 – June 19: Havana – Universidad de la Habana

Requirements and Application Details (subject to revision):

Spring Semester Prerequisite

Students are required to register for LCRS UN3999 (4 point independent study course with Prof. Moya) offered on Wednesday 2:10pm-4pm. Click here for syllabus.

Knowledge of Latin America is helpful but not required.

Important dates:

  • Information Sessions: November 2 and November 14
  • Online Applications: December 2 in OGP portal
  • Interview Dates: December 12-15*, Time TBD, mandatory
  • Decisions made by December 16*
  • Pre-departure meeting – Friday, May 12, 2017, mandatory
  • First summer class: Monday, May 15, 9am – 12pm (IAB 802)
  • Departure day: Tuesday, May 16, 2017, arrive in Buenos Aires May 17.
  • Program Dates: May 16 – June 19, 2017*
  • Final Paper due: May 26, 2017
    *Dates are subject to change

Program Application Form: Application is available in the Office of Global Programs website.

Costs and Financial aid:

  • We are pleased to announce that, with generous support from the President’s Office, we will be able to offer the GSP with a merit and needs based application process and significant financial aid available for students selected to participate.
  • The cost of the program is expected to be the equivalent of summer tuition for 5 credits plus applciable fees.
  • Students will only be responsible for NY-Buenos Aires and Havana-NY travel costs, some dinners, and applicable visas to Brazil and Cuba (U.S. citizens need visas to both countries, $160 each).
    Please visit these links for information:
  • All in-country travel, most meals, activities, and housing costs are included in the costs of the program.



  • All students selected to go on the program will receive an ILAS Travel Grant of $1,000 to defray costs of travel from NY-Buenos Aires and from Havana-NY.


See PPT of GSP info-session