For many Centre College students, senior year culminates in a paper or presentation representing not only a particular interest in their field but also all they have learned within that area of study. Some then present these projects at a national conference, as did two Latin American Studies seniors who traveled recently to Austin, Texas.
Isabelle Ballard ’16 and Shannon Keene ’16 presented capstone projects at a graduate student conference hosted by the Institute of Latin American Studies Student Association (ILASSA) at the University of Texas centered around the theme of “Utopia and Reality: Latin America Confronting Globalization.” Because it’s the oldest annual student conference on Latin America in the United States and ILASSA is an all-graduate student organization, getting their papers accepted was all the more impressive.
Ballard’s presentation, “Mexican Art: National Style and Global Culture,” was part of a panel on “Claiming Public Spaces through Art and Poetry.” She argued that early twentieth century Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada deserved to be included in the international Arts and Crafts movement.
Keene delivered a presentation on the subject “El Che: Murderer or Martyr?” as part of a panel entitled “Discursive Power.” She reported on the results of a survey administered to 250 Centre students that asked their opinion of an iconic image of Che Guevara. Keene concluded that students who had taken courses on Latin America had a more nuanced view of him as a man and historical figure.
“Our students compared intellectually with their graduate student peers in every way,” said Assistant Professor of Spanish Willie Costley, who accompanied the students to the conference along with Assistant Professor of Spanish Jason Doroga.
Robyn Cutright, chair of the Latin American Studies program and associate professor of anthropology, echoed Costley’s pride in the students. “This year we decided to push our minors to submit papers to a graduate student conference,” she said, “because we thought that they would rise to the challenge—and they have.”
The students in turn are appreciative of the personal guidance given to them by the faculty.
“Having professors willing to help and give their support makes opportunities like this possible,” said Keene. “That’s one of the things that make Centre so special.”
Keene also noted that she and Ballard appreciated being challenged by their professors and enjoyed having the opportunity to participate in the conference. “It felt very rewarding to share ideas with like-minded people on the study of Latin America,” Keene said.
Her survey findings reflect what Keene appreciated most about her time in the Latin American Studies program: the opportunity to explore a diverse array of perspectives on the world. Courses like these, she observed, challenge Centre students “to think outside the norm of the Western world.”
Above: Shannon Keene ’16 presents at ILASSA conference.
by Mary Trollinger
March 18, 2016