Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Haitian Creole: One Stone Center grad's journey from Tulane to dream job

February 13th, 2013

When Kate Schuenke-Lucien applied to and then began studying for her Master’s degree at Tulane’s Stone Center for Latin American Studies in 2003 she had no idea a Haitian Creole FLAS grant was an option, nor did she know the central role that Haitian Creole studies would play in her life. Schuenke was already connected to Haiti-her family had a deep commitment to the country in the form of philanthropic and volunteer work. In fact, after her mother’s death, friends and family contributed funds to build a K-12 school in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, an appropriate memorial for a woman who was both a teacher and dedicated to work in Haiti.

Schuenke-Lucien began her academic life at Wheaton College, a private Christian liberal arts college outside of Chicago. There she double majored in Political Science and Spanish. While at the time she was more interested in countries like Argentina than in Haiti, after graduating with her BA Schuenke was invited to come and teach English and Spanish for a year at her mother’s school. After that year her commitment to the region had deepened and solidified. An advisor from her undergraduate institution suggested she apply to Tulane for a Master’s, citing the Stone Center’s strong program in the Caribbean.

When Schuenke-Lucien arrived at Tulane in 2003 she was surprised and delighted to learn of the Haitian Creole program. She already spoke Creole reasonably well after her time in Haiti, but the courses were essential for firmly establishing her knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. As she notes, the program also provided her with much needed "credentials" in the language. The university level courses in Haitian Creole, a highly unusual offering among academic institutions, gave her increased confidence, and the ability to demonstrate her Haitian Creole ability in the form of coursework, not just time spent in the country. Ultimately, Schuenke-Lucien took Haitian Creole all four semesters at Tulane and was a FLAS fellow for three of them. She also focused on Haiti for her Master’s thesis, working with Professor Martha Huggins to investigate the efficacy of the U.S. police training programs in Haiti.

From Tulane Schuenke went immediately to Notre Dame University where she began PhD work in Political Science, working with professors at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. There, she carried out research for scholars involved with the Kellogg Institute and, thanks to her Tulane training in Haiti and Haitian Creole, soon became the "default" person for research on Haiti. Thanks to her work at the Kellogg Institute, after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Schuenke-Lucien was recommended to assist the university in organizing and communicating about Notre Dame’s Haitian outreach programs. One of the professors she worked with in this capacity was Father Timothy Scully, csc, with the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE). ACE works on a number of projects involving the Catholic Church and education in Haiti. In December 2012 Schuenke-Lucien was named Associate Director of ACE, responsible for coordinating and providing support for ACE Consulting's Haiti Catholic Education Initiatives.

Schuenke-Lucien is still working on completing her PhD, but describes her position at ACE as a "dream job," noting "I'm using all the skills I learned in graduate school in the most practical, effective, applied way possible to help dramatically improve the lives of Haitian children." While she acknowledges her PhD work certainly helped her achieve her Associate Director position, she writes that "I think the main reason I got this job is because of my training at Tulane, specifically all the Haitian Creole courses I was able to take and the research I did on Haiti."

To learn more about Schuenke-Lucien’s current work in Haiti, click here.



Upcoming Events

Noon-Time Talk on Behind Closed Doors, Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898 with Lucia Abramovic

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Join Lucia Abramovich, NOMA's curatorial fellow for Spanish colonial art for a Noontime Talk on the exhibition Behind Closed Doors, Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898.

Noontime Talks are brief, informative discussions on exhibitions and installations in NOMA's galleries. Wednesdays are free admission days for Louisiana residents. Please visit the NOMA website for more information.

MARI Brown Bag: Marcello Canuto, "The Tombs of La Corona: La Noblesse Oblige"

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Marcello Canuto, Director of the Middle American Research Institute at Tulane University, will present about his recent investigations at La Corona. The talk will focus on tombs discovered during the 2014 field season and the information these tombs provides about the broader socio-political relationships at La Corona.

M.A.R.I.'s Brown Bag talk series is meant to provide a venue for students and faculty focusing on topics related to Mesoamerica to discuss their latest research in an informal and friendly setting. If you are interested in presenting, please email Marcello Canuto ( for more information. For the current speaker list of this talk series, please click here.

Please remember to bring your lunch!

Mining, Privilege, and Artistic Production in the Colonial Andes: Short Film and Roundtable Discussion

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This program includes a screening of Harun Farocki's film The Silver and the Cross (20 min), which examines a 1758 painting by Gaspar Miguel de Berrío that depicts the city and the surrounding silver mines of Potosí, Bolivia. A roundtable discussion featuring three local scholars of Colonial Latin America will follow the film. The discussion will employ the film's description of colonial Potosí as an anchor for a broader discussion about colonial Andean economics, history, and art, particularly as it relates to Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898.

The goal of this event is to better understand the mechanisms that created the level of wealth exhibited in Behind Closed Doors, and to shed light on an often overlooked city that was essential to the economic success of Spanish America for hundreds of years.

The roundtable discussants are Dr. Kris Lane, the France V. Scholes Professor of Colonial Latin American History, Department of History, Tulane University; Dr. John Charles, Associate Professor of Colonial Spanish American Literature and Director of Graduate Studies, Spanish and Portuguese Department, Tulane University; and Dr. Ari Zighelboim, Lecturer, Spanish and Portuguese Department, Tulane University. Lucia Abramovich, NOMA's Curatorial Fellow for Spanish Colonial Art, will moderate the discussion.

About Dr. Kris Lane
Kris Lane holds the France V. Scholes Chair in Colonial Latin American History at Tulane University. His books include Quito 1599: City & Colony in Transition, Colour of Paradise: The Emerald in the Age of Gunpowder Empires, and Pillaging the Empire: Piracy in the Americas, 1500-1750. He is currently writing a history of the great Potosí mint scandal of 1649, along with an annotated translation of early writings on Potosí.

About Dr. John Charles
John Charles is Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Tulane University. He is the author of numerous articles on colonial Andean literature and history, and the book Allies at Odds: The Andean Church and Its Indigenous Agents, 1583-1671 (University of New Mexico Press, 2010).

About Dr. Ari Zighelboim
Ari Zighelboim (Lima, 1960) studied in Peru, Israel and the United States, graduating with a Bachelor's degree in history and East Asian studies, an MA in cultural anthropology and a PhD in Spanish and Latin American literature. His masters paper dealt with scenes of human sacrifice on mountains in Moche iconography, and his PhD thesis with the surviving Inca nobility during the colonial period in Peru and its cultural and social strategies. He has written about Ruben Dario, Juan de Espinosa Medrano, the drama in Quechua Ollantay, Potosí and other topics. He has also published a volume of poetry. He is now senior lecturer in the department of Spanish and Portuguese at Tulane university.

Reimagining Race, Class, and Identity in the New World

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Assistant Professor Mia Bagneris will lecture on "Reimagining Race, Class, and Identity in the New World," on Friday, September 12 at 6pm at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The lecture will be held in conjunction with the exhibit, Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492-1898.

Professor Bagneris teaches African American/Diaspora art history and studies of race in Western Art. Her own work concentrates on the construction of race in British and American art and visual culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Performance by Afro-Cuban band Sintesis

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The Cuban and Caribbean Institute presents: Sintesis

Afro-Cuban group Sintesis, founded in 1974 by Carlos Alfonso Valdes, is one of Cuba's musical emblems. The contemporary band has elements of ethno-fusion rhythms mixed with a core of jazz and rock and roll. In the 1980's, Sintesis grew in popularity, and by mid-late decade, the band was a staple of world music festivals. In 1989, they released their first album "Ancestros," and since then have released many more. Their album "Habana a Flor de Piel" was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award in the category of Best Contemporary Tropical Album in 2002.

All are welcome to attend.

Guantánamo Post-9/11: Human Rights & Constitutional Law in Modern America

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Guantánamo Post-9/11: Human Rights & Constitutional Law in Modern America

Guest speakers:
Jess Bravin: Wall Street Journal, author of Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantánamo Bay
Denny Leboeuf: ACLU, Tulane JD
Chaplain James Yee: Former U.S. Army Chaplain, author of For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire

The Guantánamo Public Memory Project is a traveling exhibit that examines the history of the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, from multiple perspectives and raises questions about U.S.-Cuban relations, civil liberties, national security, and public memory in the past, present, and future. The guest speakers will be giving a talk on the titled event. All are welcome to attend.

For more information about the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, visit