Latin America and the Caribbean: Regional Studies

Program Category: MA Programs
Director of Graduate Studies: Gustavo Azenha
Degree Programs: Full-Time/ Part-Time: Free-Standing MA

The interdisciplinary MA program 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. The curriculum combines core seminars on region-specific scholarship and research with the opportunity to take graduate-level courses in different disciplines throughout Columbia University. During the first semester, students obtain solid foundations in the most relevant scholarship on key issues of contemporary Latin America (democratization, rule of law, urban development, environmental change, trade and immigration, gender relations, and cultural expression of diversity, among others). In the second semester, they hone research methodologies and the critical use of scholarship in order to develop their own projects and complete an MA thesis.

Latin American countries have developed increasingly strong ties within and beyond the region while consolidating democratic institutions and the rule of law. MARSLAC students deepen their knowledge of the political, economic, social, and cultural processes shaping the region, and graduate with the expertise to be leaders in their chosen fields. Ideal both for professionals seeking regional knowledge and students intending to pursue the PhD, the program prepares graduates for careers in government, public policy, non-profit organizations, journalism, the private sector, and academia. The program also assists K- 12 educators in the metropolitan area to develop curricula that address the specific needs of the increasing numbers of students from this region in New York City schools.

Applicants come from a diversity of backgrounds: they may be, for example, health professionals collaborating with colleagues in Latin American countries; government and NGO professionals working in the region; or business people seeking to develop expertise in a region increasingly linked to the US and global economies.

The MA program is supported by the expertise of Columbia's faculty in the social sciences and humanities, in addition to Columbia's research infrastructure and access to other resources in New York City. It builds upon the unique synergy created between the programs of the Institute of Latin American Studies and various institutions in the New York City area and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The educational experiences of MA students are enriched by participating in the various lecture series, conferences, and other activities sponsored by the Institute.

The Institute of Latin American Studies

MARSLAC is housed in the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS), the center at Columbia University for research, teaching, and discussion relating to Latin America. 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 scholarships and professional achievement in the field of Latin American studies. Columbia Professor Frank Tannenbaum, the first director of the institute 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 US foreign policy. Latin American area studies have since then developed as one of the strongest fields in American social sciences and humanities, and 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 matters of culture, commerce, finance, and immigration. The expertise of the Latin American faculty at Columbia University and the curiosity of its students reflect this growth and diversification. ILAS seeks to facilitate the institutional and scholarly linkages that will maintain Columbia's leadership in the field.

ILAS serves as a portal for scholars and institutions, inside and outside Columbia, to identify and establish productive exchanges with the different academic units of the university. ILAS provides the venue for a variety of public events featuring distinguished speakers, research reports, seminars, conferences, and a lunchtime lecture series. The institute also assists graduate students in the social sciences to develop a program of study from the wide range of Latin American courses available throughout the university.

ILAS distributes resources to support Latin American research and teaching at Columbia. It awards various fellowships and grants to faculty and graduate and undergraduate students to further their research and thus to enrich the academic community. ILAS and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) at New York University is part of the New York City Consortium on Latin America through academic collaborations for over 20 years.

Special Admissions Requirements

MARSLAC invites applications from students who have, or will have received by the time of enrollment, a baccalaureate granted by a college or university of recognized standing. Applicants should have a general background in social sciences and humanities and be interested in deepening their knowledge of Latin America and the Caribbean and in broadening their analytical and research skills.

Applicants should have completed at least two years of Spanish or Portuguese at the undergraduate level or have equivalent proficiency. Proficiency in French, Creole, or an Amerindian language can also satisfy the language prerequisite if this language is relevant to the applicant's proposed focus of study.

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit one transcript showing courses and grades per school attended, a statement of academic purpose, a personal statement, and two letters of evaluation from academic sources.

All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS.

For more information, refer to our Admissions Information and Frequently Asked Questions pages.

*GSAS will accept up to four recommendations, regardless of the number required by your program of interest. However, to be eligible for admission at GSAS, at least TWO letters must be submitted by academic recommenders.


Writing Sample

The writing sample should consist of academic writing and be no longer than 20 pages.

Early Application Deadline

Applicants who wish to be considered for funding are strongly encouraged to apply by the early deadline date, February 1.