Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Robbie Dean, '12

Teach for America, Dallas, TX

During Robbie’s senior year at Tulane, he was recruited by Teach for America to teach 5th grade Bilingual Education in Dallas, Texas. Teach for America recruits, trains, and supports recent college graduates and other young professionals to make an impact and provide leadership in predominantly low-income schools. TFA’s vision is centered on the ideal that all children, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, will receive a quality education.

As a second year TFA corps member, Robbie currently teaches over forty 5th grade students Spanish Reading & Language Arts, United States History and Science in the Dallas Independent School District. He serves a school of 1000 elementary students of Mexican and Central American background, many of whom are first and second-generation migrants. All of Robbie’s students are categorized as Limited English Proficient (LEP) and receive the majority of their core instruction in Spanish. Robbie was recently appointed by the administration as the campus’s Data Analysis Team Chair, in which he analyzes his school’s achievement data to vertically and horizontally align interventions across grade levels. This summer, Robbie was contracted by the Latino Cultural Center of Dallas to research and cultivate the center’s 2013-2014 educational curriculum. This curriculum is available for free to all Dallas public school teachers so that they may further introduce Latin American Studies and the arts in their classrooms.

He reflects on his time at Tulane…

Why did you choose to major in Latin American Studies?
During my freshman year at Tulane, I explored several different majors related to economics, public policy and Spanish language and literature. My array of academic interests did not fit one sole discipline. After meeting with advisors and academic counselors, I learned of Tulane’s reputable Stone Center for Latin American Studies. By becoming a Latin American Studies major, I knew that I could explore my interests in economic policy, cultural studies, and Spanish language without following a strict and rigid course of study.

This sensation of academic freedom allowed me to investigate Latin American economic reform in authentic ways my first year as an undergrad. As a participant in the Stone Center’s Summer Abroad program in Valparaíso, Chile, I researched and presented a comparison study of Chilean and Argentine educational reform. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to be able to engage in a research project abroad before becoming a Latin American Studies major.

Throughout my academic career at Tulane, the Stone Center consistently provided me exposure to careers in public policy and opportunities to develop my organizational and leadership skills. As a two-time Model of the Organization of American States participant, I was able to meet and learn from policy leaders at the World Bank, the IMF, and the Inter-American Development Bank. Furthermore, I was able to collaborate with students throughout the Americas to prescribe and review policies to catalyze the region’s development.

How has your background in LAST helped you since graduation
Since graduation, employers and professionals have been most impressed by the quantity and quality of research required of LAST majors at Tulane. As a LAST major, I researched extensively different ways to affect economic change that would benefit Latin America‘€™s most marginalized and impoverished communities. One of the most important economic truths that I learned in my studies is that the main source of poverty is inequality in education. By augmenting this understanding with documented research projects and conference presentations, I was able to become a competitive candidate for Teach For America.

Additionally, employers are seeking bilingual and bicultural talent to accommodate an emerging Spanish-speaking market. The LAST major requires students to demonstrate proficiency in Spanish, Portuguese, or Haitian Creole. Both my cultural and language experience in the region make me a more competitive candidate for positions not only in education but also in public, non-profit, and private sector administration.

In hindsight, what would you have done differently as an LAST major?
Personally, I would have used the interdisciplinary freedom of the Latin American Studies major to develop my quantitative and organizational skills more than I did while at Tulane. I now realize that leading organizations and graduate programs in policy and governance are seeking talent who demonstrate competency in organizational management with advanced knowledge in statistics, econometrics, and data analysis. Therefore, I would have used the flexibility of the program to take courses in other disciplines in order to develop said skills.

Any words of wisdom for LAST undergraduates?
I believe that the more specific the academic focus, the more valuable the Latin American Studies degree. In my brief experience, it seems that employers are seeking individuals who demonstrate passion and knowledge of a singular and complex issue rather than a general and broad focus of study.

Explore all of your interests but ultimately hone in on the issues that are most meaningful to you and most pertinent to the your potential career. Find as many ways to engage in research projects and conference presentations that explore these interests. Utilize both Tulane‘€™s and the Stone Center‘€™s abundant resources such as the Dean‘€™s Grant and other scholarships for research to help you fund these projects. Live and travel through Latin America in order to contextualize your studies and develop your foreign language ability. And ultimately, capitalize on the Senior Capstone to help you articulate your academic focus to potential employers.

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Upcoming Events

Final Push Fridays: Graduate Research & Writing Support

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Every Friday from 10am-12pm CDT, The Latin American Library and Stone Center are co-hosting a virtual work-along for Latin Americanist graduate students to support each other in their research and writing goals. The Zoom meeting has two break-out options: participants may choose to troubleshoot research and methodological questions with an LAL librarian and/or work towards their writing objectives alongside a community of their peers. We hope you will join us when you can!

Central America, People and the Environment Educator Institute 2021

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This summer educator institute is the third institute in a series being offered by Tulane University, The University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University. This series of institutes is designed to enhance the presence of Central America in the K-12 classroom. Each year, participants engage with presenters, resources and other K-12 colleagues to explore diverse topics in Central America with a focus on people and the environment.

While at Tulane, the institute will explore the historic connections between the United States and Central America focusing on indigenous communities and environment while highlighting topics of social justice and environmental conservation. Join us to explore Central America and teaching strategies to implement into the classroom.

Additional details and registration will be available in the late fall 2020. For more information, please email dwolteri@tulane.edu or call 504.865.5164.