My name is Elva Orozco, I am a sixth year PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Political Science Department and I am currently working on the graduate certificate in Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino studies. There are many things I have to say about the certificate, but I will start by saying that one of the reasons I came to UMass to pursue research on Feminicide—that is, gender-based homicides, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico—was precisely because of the Center. Previously, I was pursuing graduate studies at Virginia Tech, and there I realize how important is to have a program that promotes and supports research on in Latin American issues. The Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino studies at UMass is that kind of place.
Since the very beginning, I began to participate in the events organized by the Center. Whenever I could, I join the talks, workshops, and conferences organized by them and I must say that one of the most important things that I found in CLACLS was the sense of community. This means not only that at the Center you get the change to listen scholars in a wide range of disciplines and fields talking about their wonderful research, but you also that you have the unique opportunity to find mentors, friends and colleagues who definitely make the graduate experience richer. Through those interactions, I was able to find the best adviser for my research, professor Angelica Bernal who is also a faculty member at the Center and other great mentors like professor Millie Thayer, professor Sonia Alvarez, and Gloria Bernabe whom have supported my work in many important ways.
Another thing, which is very important especially as we move forward in our programs, is funding. In 2012, the center supported my fieldwork research in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua by awarding me the Area Studies Scholarship that help finance my travel expenses to these cities. Thanks to their generous support, I was able to have a longer stay in Juarez. The research I conducted during this period helped me to begin drafting my dissertation chapters.
The center has also supported the Association of Latin American and Caribbean Students and Friends that several students from Latin America put together in 2011. Whenever we organize events Gloria from the Center let us use their space for our meetings. They help us with advertising, and, when we’re lucky, with food. They have let some of us use their space to present our work and get feedback which is extremely important for us as graduate students. As you see, the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino studies is an excellent resource for graduate students, and the best part is that is very close. So I definitely recommend everyone who has any interest in Latin America, the Caribbean or in Latinos in the US to approach the center and to take advantage of its wonderful resources.