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LAS Alumni

LAS Alumni

If you are an alumni of our program (Major/Minor) and would like to get in touch with your former colleagues or let us know about your life after graduation, join our exclusive mailing list by writing to our Coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Iñaki Albisu Ardigó  | Graham Denyer Willis | Heather Ewing | David Fernández | Eshe Lewis  | Jerome Scully | Fernando Monge-Loria |

 


  

 

James Bradford Bio Pic Jim Bradford graduated from University College, with the objective of conducting business with Latin America. Before studying at the University of Toronto, Jim studied photojournalism at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario.

While pursuing photography, I have traveled extensively in Mexico and gained a vast interest in Latin America. I found the professors, teaching assistants and students of the LAS program to be welcoming and of many different backgrounds. I have met other students interested in travel, and these varied experiences have added an interesting dynamic both to class discussions and social functions within the lively and well attended Organization of Latin American Students, OLAS. I have been active with OLAS and am currently a volunteer with the Tutoring and Mentoring program for secondary school students, as well as being a past associate newspaper editor for The Varsity, Student newspaper of the University of Toronto.

 


 

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Elio B. Ramirez is originally from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and completed a degree in Latin American Studies and Anthropology and Diaspora and Transnationalism Studies.

I have worked closely with The Harriet Tubman Student Summer Program and Teach to Learn. Both of these Toronto-based organizations are dedicated to promoting African history and cultures amongst youth of African and Latin American descent in local communities. With The Harriet Tubman summer program, I participated as coordinator and as facilitator; providing weekly workshops, classes, and trips focused on the contributions of African peoples to the world, especially in Latin America.

As a member of Teach to Learn, I participated in numerous community activities, including volunteering as a tutor at St. Jude´s primary school this past winter. When I'm not participating in community events, he enjoys training Capoeira, writing, reading, and drawing and painting.

His academic interests are in Education, Latin American Narrative, and Disaster and Emergency Management. 

 

 


 

Iñaki Albisu Ardigó graduated from the University of Toronto in June 2012 with Majors in Latin American Studies and Political Science and a Minor in Spanish. He has completed a Masters in Corruption and Governance at the University of Sussex and is currently working at Transparency International.

Che photoIt would not be exaggerated to say that the LAS Program at the University of Toronto still gives me food for thought, even years after I graduated. I became interested in LAS through a series of talks held by the department in 2008. Upon entering the program I encountered amazing professors and students that offered me a glimpse of cultures and ideas that I had only heard about in passing. The program had small classes but a variety of courses that gave me a very well rounded understanding about the region. Professors like Antonio Torres-Ruiz and Nestor Rodríguez taught classes in ways that allowed me to explore new ideas while connecting the Latin American region to concepts taught in my politics classes.

I spent the last year of my program on exchange at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, where the Latin American Studies program had given me the necessary background to understand and keep up with Latin American politics in a Latin American university. My interest in Latin America did not stop with graduation. I volunteered and worked at several anticorruption NGOs in Argentina and I constantly touched base with old professors to find out about new trends in Latin American politics. I finished a Masters on Corruption and Governance at the University of Sussex in 2014, writing my thesis on why certain Argentine cities and provinces are successful at combating corruption and why others are not. Currently I am interning at the Transparency International Secretariat, where I am working developing content about corruption related topics, especially related to corruption at border and customs in the Americas.


Graham Denyer Willis graduated in 2002 with a double major in Portuguese and Ibero-American Studies (the predecessor of Latin American Studies). Currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Graham has since worked for international NGOs, United Nations agencies and research organizations in Latin America, Africa, the United States and Canada. He is currently undertaking a multi-year ethnographic study of police in Sao Paulo, Brazil and hopes to work as a university professor.

DenyerI came to the University of Toronto and the Latin American Studies Program after returning from a year-long Rotary International student exchange in Brazil. As a young Canadian, Brazil fascinated me. But it also troubled me. Poverty was extreme. Violence, particularly in cities, was growing. Inequality was stark. Democracy, a system of great promise, was starting to feel tired. As such, I came to the program looking to build upon the most enlightening year of my life by deepening my intellectual investment in Latin America – and to find some answers to very difficult questions. The combination of advanced Portuguese language study and a broad and flexible list of courses on Latin America drew my interest and held it for the entire duration of my undergraduate degree. While many of my peers flip-flopped in their interest and majors, there was no question to me, then or now, that this program was the best place to advance my growing desire to learn about Brazil.

More importantly though, the program allowed me to trace the historical and political roots of some of the questions that bothered me. I took courses in History, Geography, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American Studies and Political Science. In these courses, I found some answers. By putting these diverse perspectives together, I could see how patterns of colonization and settlement, the enduring influence of conservative elites, powerful legacies of racial division and histories of state violence were conspiring to make Brazil the country of the future, eternally.

This broad, exploratory and flexible experience served as the foundation for my Masters and PhD studies. Unlike many of my peers who have strong disciplinary backgrounds, I find that I am able to approach and examine problems from different scales and viewpoints. The interdisciplinary structure of the program continues to shape the way I think, how I attempt to solve intellectual puzzles and the ways that I contribute to research and policy. Without this experience, at a formative time in my life, I am certain that I would not be where I am today. 

 


Heather Ewing graduated in June 2011 with a Specialist in Spanish and a Major in Latin American Studies. She currently works for Habitat for Humanity International as the Volunteer Engagement Support Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, where she facilitates international volunteering for teams travelling to Latin America. On November 2011, Heather led a team on the build of Habitat’s 35,000th housing solution in Guatemala, a great accomplishment for the organization. She will start a joint MA in Latin American Studies and a MPH in Global Health at Vanderbilt University in the Fall 2015.

Ewing 2015Initially, I intended to study Political Science. My first year courses reinforced that my main area of interest was Latin America, and I heard great reviews of the program from fellow students, so I enrolled in LAS200 at the beginning of my second year. Given the size of the University, I think students run the risk of not having a very personal educational experience. I certainly felt that way after my first year. When I started taking LAS courses, that all turned around. Professors were personable, engaging, and interested in their students’ individual development. For me, that aspect was absolutely crucial to having a positive university experience. I also had the pleasure of getting to know my fellow students in the program, many of whom remain my friends today despite my departure from Canada.

During my studies, one of the things that struck me is the tremendous influence that North American countries have always had on events in Latin America. As an American citizen, LAS courses made me aware of the criticisms to the actions of my home country in a geographic area that I had come to care deeply about. For some time, I felt helpless to change what I perceived to be the negative influence of the US in the region. However, I came to the conclusion that if people living in North America could gain more of an understanding on this negative effect, perhaps they could be the force behind positive change. The feeling that this awareness was a crucial catalyst for change in the region came from my studies within the LAS program and led me to my current position at Habitat for Humanity.

Prior to working at the organization’s headquarters, I spent 16 months working at our office in Guatemala. LAS certainly helped to prepare me for the reality that I faced upon my arrival to the country, and also to understand the complexities of a nation that emerged from a long and devastating civil war relatively recently. Having this context helped me to perform better in my position because I could understand poverty housing in the country as an issue influenced by a myriad of factors. I was able to pass that knowledge along to international teams of volunteers during their brief stays in Guatemala. Celebrating Habitat’s 35,000th housing solution in the country was a very joyous occasion, as my coworkers and myself work hard to organize many builds throughout the year.

 


David Fernández complemented his Major in Latin American Studies with Minors in Spanish and Portuguese. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 2010, and in 2013 he completed a Master’s degree in Library Science and Book History in the Faculty of Information Studies at the University of Toronto. He currently works as a Rare Books Librarian in Fisher Library. David received the 2008 Latin American Undergraduate Research Award, and he is the winner of the 2012 Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials Scholarship (SALALM). To read his interview with SALALM, visit: http://salalm.org/2013/12/16/interview-with-salalm-scholarship-awardee-david-fernandez/

Fernandez

I remember when the LAS program was launched. It was an exciting time because of all the new people and the prospects of academic opportunities in a newly founded program.

LAS taught me how to think critically from a multidisciplinary approach. Several people shaped my understanding of how to study a region so vast and diverse as Latin America, in particular Diana Rodríguez, and Professors Víctor Rivas, Josiah Blackmore, Ricardo Sternberg, and Rosa Sarabia, as well as many colleagues in the program.

I am interested in the history of the book in Latin America. I am currently researching the history of publishing and printing in countries like Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, México, and Venezuela. With LAS I gained the skills to think in different disciplines and it is proving to be relevant to the field of information studies.

We are proud to announce that David has recently (May 2012) received the second prize at the Third National Book Collecting Contest for Young Canadians under 30, sponsored by The Bibliographical Society of Canada (BSC), the W.A. Deacon Literary Foundation (DLF), and the Alcuin Society. To read the essay that accompanied his submission, visit: http://www.abebooks.com/books/national-book-collecting-contest-young-canadians/david-fernandez.shtml

 


Eshe Lewis graduated from the University in Toronto in June 2009 with a Major in Latin American Studies and Minors in Spanish and Caribbean Studies. She has completed a Masters in Latin American Studies at the University of Florida in Gainesville and will start a Ph.D. in Applied Anthropology in Fall 2012 at the same university.

LewisI really enjoyed the fact that LAS was small and intimate. I felt that my professors had time for me, that they wanted to engage their students in the course work, and that they were extremely supportive of my interests and future goals. Because the program was so small, I felt comfortable with the other students and it was great in such a large university to feel as though I was part of a smaller community.

The program fueled my interest in the region and I am so happy that I was given the freedom to explore my options. It definitely gave me the push I needed to continue my studies. The experience I have gained due to the Undergraduate Research Award that Gabriela Rodríguez and I won has truly changed my life. We used the funds to travel to Peru and to obtain the footage used in a film we created: "Negro Soy: Black Voices from the Peruvian Pacific". The film features interviews with important Afro-Peruvian musicians, historians, activists and dancers about the legacy and current situation of Afro-descendants in Peru. It aims to introduce viewers to part of the Pacific Afro-American diaspora, which is less visible than that of the Atlantic.

Currently, I am still working with the Afro-Peruvian community that I came in contact with during the field research that I conducted with Gabriela Rodriguez, but I am focusing on Afro-Peruvian social activism. My master’s thesis is centered on the inter-generational relationship between Afro-Peruvian social activists. I am interested in knowledge sharing and connections among youth and veteran activists in Latin America in general, and how that contributes to the creation and maintenance of Afro-descendant social movements throughout the region. I will be applying for a Ph.D. in Applied Anthropology this fall to further my work with Afro-descendants in the Americas and hopefully work in a government position where I can provide further support for their social movements.

 


Jerome Scully complemented his Major in Latin American Studies with Minors in Sexual Diversity Studies and Spanish. He graduated from the University of Toronto in June 2011, and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Guelph.

Scully2

Without a doubt, Professor Victor Rivas had the greatest impact on my entire university experience. I took every course he was teaching. He not only taught me how to think critically, but he also gave me the theoretical tools to approach my study of sexuality from a post-colonial perspective. It was Professor Rivas who first encouraged me to continue on to graduate school. The ongoing support of Professors Bernardo García Dominguez and Ken Mills, as well as Diana Rodríguez Quevedo, was also important because they always reassured me that my research was worthwhile.

Probably the defining moment of my undergraduate career was winning the Latin American Studies Undergraduate Research Award with David Fernández. The grant enabled us to travel to Cuba and create our documentary “¿Oye, qué bolá? Cuban Voices on Sexual Diversity” in which we were able to provide a much-needed update to information on the state of LGBT issues in that country. The documentary was initially screened at six film festivals and at the 2010 Latin American Studies Conference at the University of Toronto. Most recently, I presented Oye at conferences in Holguín and Santiago de Cuba.

Currently, I am in the final stages of writing my master’s thesis which looks at sexual dissidence and Cuban revolutions. Specifically, I am interested in the process of the inclusion of queer subjects into the idea of Che Guevara’s ‘hombre nuevo.’


Fernando Monge-Loria completed his Majors in Latin American Studies and History and a Minor in Philosophy in 2014. He is currently continuing his studies at the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto.

LAS Profile PhotoI first heard about LAS from fellow students who spoke very highly of both the courses and the faculty. I decided to take LAS200 with Professor Rivas in my second year and I was not disappointed. LAS quickly became an integral part of my U of T experience. The approachable and attentive environment of the program, as well as its diversity of opportunities, such as the Undergraduate Research Award which I received in 2012, helped me find my niche in undergrad at U of T.

I am currently studying towards a JD at the Faculty of Law at U of T. I am interested in the ways that legal systems impact migration in the Americas, as well as the interaction of distinct legal systems in the context of North American economic activity in Latin America. Having a background in LAS allows me to think critically about the law’s treatment of these issues, as it provides me with a different way of approaching and understanding them. It is my hope to bring the critical mind which LAS has helped me develop to my practice of law in the future.