Master of Arts in Regional Studies

The Master of Arts in Regional Studies—Latin America and the Caribbean (MARSLAC) provides a broad social science-based approach to modern and contemporary Latin America and the Caribbean. Students deepen their knowledge of the political, economic, social, and cultural processes shaping the region. And the program uniquely combines an interdisciplinary core set of courses with ample flexibility to allow students to develop a custom-tailored area of study.

For more information about the application process and to access the application form, please go to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences page here

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for answers to common questions about the MARSLAC program and application process.

To view video testimonials from MARSLAC students and alumni regarding their experience  the program please click here

Fellowship Opportunities

All applicants are considered for merit based aid as part of the MARSLAC admissions process. There are several fellowship opportunities available for students, including Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships, which include full tuition and a $20,000 stipend. We encourage all applicants that are US citizens or residents to apply for the FLAS Fellowship opportunities, which requires a separate application. Additional information about the FLAS Fellowship and application process is available here.

For information about all other funding opportunities please click here

The Curriculum

The curriculum augments core seminars on region-specific scholarship and research with the opportunity to take courses in disciplines across Columbia, including, for example, history, economics, political science, anthropology, international affairs, law, and business.

Students develop an interdisciplinary understanding of the region through exposure to scholarship on key issues of contemporary Latin America—democratization, rule of law, inequality, urban development, environmental change, trade and immigration, gender relations, and cultural expression of diversity, among others. Students also hone their regional knowledge and research and analytical skills by developing individual projects under the advisement of ILAS faculty. The program’s capstone project is a master’s thesis on the student’s selected topic and cultural or geographic area of interest.  Students have the flexbility of taking coursework and developing theses projects the involve qualitative and/or quantitative approaches.

Read more about the degree requirements.

Students hone their knowledge and research and analytical skills by developing individual projects under the advisement of ILAS faculty.

The Columbia Advantage

The MARSLAC program provides a one-of-a-kind Ivy League experience that distinguishes itself from other master’s degrees in several important regards:

  • Design a course of study that supports your professional goals
  • Take advantage of hands-on support of academic pursuits from dedicated staff
  • Learn from world-renowned faculty (see full list of affiliated faculty here; you can also familiarize yourself with some of ILAS's featured faculty in our Unpacking Latin America podcast series)
  • Experience public programming at ILAS and Columbia, and all over New York City
  • Expand your learning outside the classroom in one of the world’s great global cities
  • Explore the vast Latin American holdings of the New York Public Library, New York University, and Cornell University
  • Network for professional advancement through ILAS’s associations with a variety of financial, diplomatic, corporate, and cultural institutions
  • Ample opportunities for financial support

Our partnership with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University (CLACS)—together we form the New York City Consortium for Latin American Studies—allows ILAS students to enroll in designated NYU courses every semester.

Who Participates in Our Program?

The MARSLAC program presents a unique and innovative opportunity for students seeking a solid foundation in the history and contemporary sociocultural and economic dynamics of the region. The program is ideal for professionals seeking regional knowledge as well as students intending to pursue a PhD, and prepares graduates for careers in government, public policy, nonprofit organizations, journalism, education, the private sector, and academia.

MARSLAC students come from a diversity of undergraduate disciplines and career backgrounds, including government and NGO professionals working in the region, public school educators, and those with private sector experience. Participants include recent undergraduates and those with years of professional experience.

The program also includes, and greatly benefits from, the cultural diversity of its participants, including students for the United States, Latin America, and countries throughout the globe. This diversity of professional and national backgrounds creates a highly enriching environment for education and innovative scholarship.  Most students have come from mainland USA, but we have had students hailing from Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Italy, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Singapore, South Korea, Trinidad & Tobago, and the United Kingdom.

MARSLAC is a successful launchpad to doctoral studies; a quarter of alumni pursue further graduate study in a diverse range of disciplines.

Our alumni have gone on to pursue PhDs in Political Science, History, Sociology, Anthropology, Economics, Education, Ethnomusicology, Latin American studies, Urban Planning, and Comparative Literature at Cambridge, UChicago, Columbia, Northwestern, Stanford, UC San Diego, Vanderbilt, and Yale.

Read more about alumni professional and academic career paths and placement data here.

Nonacademic Careers

Our program serves as an excellent way for those with nonacademic professional interests to build their knowledge of the region, research and analytical skills, and professional networks to support career development. About three quarters of our graduates go on to work in the nonprofit, public, or the private sector. Our alumni have secured employment at the United Nations, the OECD, the State Department, the Department of Defense, and foreign governments, as well as the New York Times, CNN, LinkedIn, NPR, Reuters, Macmillan Publishers, the Nature Conservancy, and the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.   

Read more about alumni professional and academic career paths and placement data here.

Read about the Career Development Services of the Columbia Graduate School of Arts & Sciences here

What Our Students and Alumni Say

“The Institute of Latin America Studies has provided me with an invigorating and refreshing experience that has unquestionably prepared me for my next job.”

“The best part of the program is the horizontal and personal relation with some professors, the student affairs coordinator and my academic adviser, as well as the curricular flexibility of the program.”

“ILAS provided me with the opportunity to meet world leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean, participate in campus-wide discussions involving prominent issues in the region, intellectually engage with a diverse student body, and learn from an incredible array of professors.”

“MARSLAC is the most comprehensive and focused MA program on Latin America and the Caribbean. If you are anything like me, diverse educational background and unsure of your next step, this program will give you a wide array of opportunities. If you are not at all like me and are completely sure of where you’re headed, MARSLAC will help you get there with expert faculty and wonderful, supportive staff. I got my dream job because of this program.”

“The best aspect of the program was the student support provided by the director of graduate studies and the student coordinator. They consistently provide support and advice and are always available to students.”

 “The best part of the program is the tireless support of the ILAS staff. I am truly grateful. Always ready to lend an ear, patient, and cheerful.”

“While the opportunity to study one of the most diverse and exciting regions in the world is already sufficient reason to be part of MARSLAC, this program offers so much more. The complete freedom to tailor your degree according to your research interests means that you not only remain motivated because you are doing the courses that you want to do, but also, as an added perk, you get to rub shoulders with faculty and students across Columbia’s wide range of graduate schools, thus expanding your insights as you learn from different perspectives. Even if you specialize in a particular field, MARSLAC’s exceptional calendar of events on topics ranging from agriculture to urban planning and security will ensure that you are never left wanting for knowledge. Add to that active alumni and a truly brilliant staff always ready to provide guidance on everything from course options to study tips and job opportunities. The MARSLAC program has proven to be one of the most rewarding decisions I have taken in my academic journey.”

“I have developed a list of resources and networks that will be of great use in the future.  The diverse backgrounds, experiences, and wealth of knowledge from my classmates have also enhanced and enriched my understanding and perspective of Latin America as a whole.”

“Knowing so many people with diverse backgrounds is my best experience from this program.”

“With courses ranging in focus from the historical, philosophical, and sociological contexts, to the political and economic successes and challenges faced by various countries, I have exponentially improved my awareness and understanding of the region.”

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for answers to common questions about the program and application process.