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LACSI's History

The Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute's history at the University Georgia spans over four decades. There was a Latin American Studies certificate program that Professor Manuel Ramirez (Portuguese) coordinated in the early 1980s. Professor Carmen Tesser (Portuguese), who arrived at UGA in 1983, became coordinator in that year. In the fall of 1985, Louise McBee supported a successful proposal for $3,000 which was used for staff and space resources. The designation Center for Latin American Studies was established in 1986 by the Board of Regents. Through a “Fulbright Scholar in Residence” Francisco Gomes de Matos came as a Visiting Professor in 1985. Funding from from the NEH and the Georgia Humanities Center was obtained in 1986 ($150,000), 1989 ($100,000), and 1990 ($50,000). Professor Lester Langley (History) served briefly as interim director. He created the first course on Latinos/Latinas in the United States at the University of Georgia. He was followed by Professors Susan Quinlan (Portuguese) and Thom Whigham (History). The name was changed to the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) in 1993. Professor Brent Berlin (Anthropology), who arrived at UGA in 1994, reformulated CLACS as part of his lab in Baldwin Hall.

The Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden located behind Baldwin Hall at UGA was inaugurated in 2000. After having acquired space for a short time in Candler Hall, LACSI was provided quarters in 2002 in a newly renovated Victorian house on South Hull Street, its current home. In 2004, LACSI was awarded a grant in the amount of $160,000 from the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program (UISFL) of the US Department of Education to support the development of its undergraduate LACS major. LACSI also received grants totaling $270,000 from the Exposition Foundation for establishment of the Latin American Ethnobotanical Garden, promotion of LACS activities with EARTH University in Costa Rica, and faculty/student research in Latin America. LACSI received a gift in the amount of $100,000 from the Katherine John Murphy Foundation for creation of the Latin-American Ethnobotanical Garden. It has also received awards amounting to over $100,000 from the Tinker Foundation, in collaboration with the Graduate School and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, to support graduate student travel. CLACS became the Institute of Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACSI), effective March 1, 2006. The Board of Regents approved the Bachelor of Arts major in Latin American and Caribbean Studies in August 2006. The Graduate Certificate was approved in 2010.

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