The Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) is the center for research, teaching, and discussion on Latin America at Columbia University. Its main goal is to bring together and provide resources for Columbia faculty, students, and visiting scholars, recognizing the diversity of their interests and approaches while strengthening their links with Latin America and with communities of Latin American origin in the United States.
Since its founding in 1962, ILAS has supported scholarship and professional achievement in the field of Latin American Studies. Columbia Professor Frank Tannenbaum, the first ILAS director and one of the preeminent Latin Americanists in the United States since the 1930s, saw the institute as a response to the need for knowledge about an area of central importance to United States foreign policy. Latin American area studies has since developed into one of the strongest fields in American social sciences and humanities, and as a space of collaboration for scholars from all over the world. The interactions between Latin America and the United States now extend beyond diplomatic relations into culture, commerce, finance, and immigration. The expertise of the Latin American faculty at Columbia and the curiosity of its students reflect this growth and diversification.
The institute has five main research centers that add particular strengths to its education, research, and outreach offerings:
ILAS seeks to facilitate the institutional and scholarly linkages that will maintain Columbia’s leadership in the field.
ILAS serves as a vital resource to students throughout Columbia. The Institute provides grant funding opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to conduct research in the region or pursue internships, helping them deepen their knowledge of Latin America and the Caribbean, while developing their professional and research skills and networks.
ILAS offers a Master of Arts in Regional Studies - Latin American and Caribbean Studies (MARSLAC), an undergraduate major and concentration in Latin American Studies, and a specialization and certificate in Latin American Studies to MA and PhD students, providing opportunities for highly interdisciplinary education. ILAS typically has over fifty students pursuing degrees, concentrations, or specializations—while also providing opportunities for academic and professional enrichment to a much wider group of students through its public programming, student grants, and other initiatives.
ILAS typically has over fifty students pursuing degrees, concentrations, or specializations.
ILAS hosts Columbia’s undergraduate major and concentration in Latin Americas Studies. The major provides undergraduates with general mastery of a discipline while permitting them the flexibility to do specialized work in the language, history, and culture of the region. Students take core courses that give them grounding in the language, history, politics, and cultures of Latin America as well as courses in a discipline of choice. Disciplines of choice include anthropology, art history and archaeology, economics, history, music, political science, sociology, Spanish and Portuguese, and urban studies.
The ILAS master of arts program in Latin American and Caribbean Studies (MARSLAC) provides a broad social science-based approach to Latin America and the Caribbean past and present. Students in the MARSLAC program deepen their knowledge of the political, economic, social, and cultural processes shaping the region. The program uniquely combines a highly interdisciplinary core curriculum, with ample flexibility to allow students to develop a custom-tailored program of study. The curriculum combines core seminars on region-specific scholarship and research with the opportunity to take courses in different disciplines throughout Columbia, including, for example, history, economics, political science, anthropology, international affairs, law, and business.
ILAS also administers a specialization and certificate in Latin American Studies to graduate students who complete an interdisciplinary program in conjunction with their own departmental degrees at GSAS or a professional school at Columbia. These programs complement the intellectual and professional development of students across the university, helping them develop language skills, cultural competencies, and empirical expertise that provide an essential foundation for successful academic and applied careers involving the region. The specialization is offered to graduate students in International and Public Affairs, pursuing a master’s in international affairs or master’s in public administration. The certificate is open to master’s and doctoral students across Columbia, who are awarded the certificate based on demonstration of foreign language proficiency and completion of eight Latin America-focused courses.
Enriching the Academic Community
ILAS typically hosts twenty to thirty visiting scholars each year. Our visiting professors and scholar programs enrich teaching and research on campus, while establishing and sustaining institutional links with Latin American universities, research institutions, nonprofit organizations, and other collaborators. ILAS has an open call for visiting scholars who have secured outside funding, as well as several funded programs. Funded initiatives include Edward Laroque Tinker Visiting Professors, who complement the offerings of permanent University faculty. Other funded initiatives for visiting professors and scholars include:
- Edmundo O’Gorman Scholars program
- Lemann Visiting Public Policy Fellows program
- Argentine Studies Visiting Fellowship
The institute distributes resources to support Latin American research and teaching at Columbia. Named by the Department of Education as a National Resource Center for Latin American Studies, ILAS is part of the New York City Consortium for Latin America along with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University. The consortium allows graduate students from both institutions to enroll in designated courses at either university to complement their education.
With financial assistance from the Tinker Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the Lemann Foundation, the ILAS Board of Advisors, and the Consejo Nacional para la Ciencia y la Tecnología (CONACyT) in Mexico, ILAS awards fellowships and grants to faculty and graduate and undergraduate students to further their research and enrich the academic community.
Located in one of the world’s great global cities, ILAS also benefits from its associations with the financial, diplomatic, and corporate centers of New York City, and with other research universities in the area.
The ILAS K-12 Outreach Program strives to enhance the professional capacity of teachers in New York City’s multicultural environment and promote the inclusion of Latin American history and culture in their classrooms and students’ daily lives. The program draws on the expertise and support of faculty and students across Columbia to offer educators resources and opportunities to learn about creative ways of incorporating Latin American history and culture into their curriculum.
ILAS provides the venue for a variety of public events including seminars, conferences, and speaker series. ILAS also organizes cultural events focused on the arts, music, and film, as well as initiatives focused on journalism. ILAS typically organizes and co-sponsors over 125 events a year on campus, including academic seminars and conferences, as well talks from distinguished speakers in the public sector, including current and former presidents, ministers, and other high-level speakers from the region.