Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

The Stone Center Hosts the XIV Annual TUCLA Conference for Undergraduate Research

December 9th, 2016

The Stone Center’s annual TUCLA Conference, held last Saturday, showed its undergraduate participants both the challenges and the benefits of publicly presenting research. Initiated in 2003, the Tulane Undergraduate Conference on Latin America was designed to introduce the style and atmosphere of an academic conference to students in the LAST core seminar for graduation seniors, while providing them an opportunity to present their research in a formal, public setting.

The core seminar encourages students to pursue a topic that reflects their individual interests, background and future career or academic goals, producing a wide variety of subjects and approaches, organized onto thematic panels. At the conference, research is presented not as conclusive, but as a “work in progress.” Several students expressed how preparing and delivering their talk helped solidify their understanding and reconceptualize the organization of their material. “Thinking about presenting my ideas to an audience who knew nothing about the topic really helped me figure out exactly what I had to say,” remarked Neely Sammons, whose research looked at the role of street art in contemporary Buenos Aires. “And how to say it,” added Fabiola Aguayo, who spoke on debates in Puerto Rico over PROMESA and the question of statehood. For Naomi Cowans, practicing a version of her presentation on Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa’s relation to Indigenous culture and environmental politics in front of friends before the conference “reinforced my knowledge of the subject, just by having to clarify basic information.”

This in turn helped with a particularly beneficial aspect of the exercise – which also produced the most anxiety in anticipation of the conference: fielding questions from the faculty discussant and the audience. At TUCLA, participants found themselves pleasantly surprised by their own expertise. “You’ve learned so much about your topic by [the conference],” said Allison Scribe, who presented on the influence of Zika in Brazil’s abortion debates, “you can answer pretty much anything.” Brandon Mahoney agreed. “I actually liked the Q and A.” he reflected about his discussion of women and microfinance in Mexico, :I would have liked more questions.” For others like, Luisa Venegoni, the questions were instructive. Regarding her presentation on conflicts between environmentalists and squatters in the ecologically sensitive peripheries of Lima, Luisa declared, “They showed me the gaps in my research—places I need to follow up.”

Above all, however, the symposium is intended to build confidence and inspire camaraderie. And according to Hannah Dean, it did. “It was really interesting after sitting in class with people all semester and hearing about their projects to see how their research came together. “ Participant biographies and paper abstracts for the 2016 XIV annual conference are available here.

TUCLA Program Schedule:

9:00-10:30

Panel I- Nation: Outsiders Within? The Politics and Cultures of Belonging
Alina Meador, Disguising Deportation: Naturalization Law 169-14 and Dominican Anti-Haitianism
Fabiola Aguaya, Perpetuating Colonialism? The PROMESA Debate and the Puerto Rican Reality
David Andersen, “El hermoso bastardo”: Nikkei Cuisine in Peru
Neely Sammons, From Protest to Profit: The Role of Street Art in Contemporary Buenos Aires

Discussant: Justin Wolfe, Department of History

10:45-12:15

Panel II- Identity: Settling for More: Gender, Power and the Struggle for Rights
Sarah Haensly, Disempowering Power: Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida’s (GIRE’s) Role in Mexico’s Abortion Legislation
Allison Scribe, When You Can’t Expect What You’re Expecting: Zika’s Impact on the Abortion Debate in Brazil
Elena Heitke, Daughter or Mother? Maternity in Keiko Fujimori’s Presidential Campaign
Brendan Mahoney, Gender and Microfinance: Can Loans Empower Latin American Women?

Discussant: Pamela Neumann, The Stone Center for Latin American Studies

Lunch 12:15- 1:00

1:00-3:00

Panel III: Encounter: Hostile Environments: Land, Ethnicity and SPaces of Conflict
Hannah Dean, A Lasting Peace? Indigenous Exclusion From the 2016 Colombian Peace Accords
Luisa Venegoni, Justice for Invaders? Urbanization-Conservation Conflict in Lima, Peru’s Lomas Ecosystem
Naomi Cowans, The Curious Case of Rafael Correa: Indigenous People, the Environment and the State in Contemporary Ecuador
Katalina Euraque, Afro-Indigenous Lives Matter: Intercultural Solidarity in Post-coup Honduras
Ryan Morey, Ayahuasca Legality: The Question of Government Regulation

Discussant: Laura Murphy, The Stone Center for Latin American Studies

Check out the full TUCLA program here.